National Novel Writing Month, the time in which aspiring novelists pledge to write 50,000 words of fiction in a mere 30 days, ends today for eager writers across the globe. For me, it ended yesterday, with one day to spare and 50,026 words written on a screen. Go me.
This is the first day in a month that I haven’t needed to think about that magic number of 1,667 (the per-day breakdown of 50,000), or update my word count on the NaNoWriMo website, or strive to get ahead just so I could take Thanksgiving and Black Friday off. Okay, technically I did write a few words and update my count on those days, including today when I had already completed NaNo, but that was all about achieving the 30 Day badge, not the number of words. Damn you, shiny NaNo badges of temptation.
In honor of this auspicious occasion, I have compiled a list of the top seven things that completing NaNoWriMo has taught me.
1. NaNoWriMo does magic tricks— Um, has anyone seen November? The year had one last time I looked…
2. You learn you can do without your friends, but why would you want to? Make sure you take extra time out to see your abandoned cohorts, even if it is a greatly reduced amount of time compared with pre-NaNo. Your sanity depends on it. So does theirs. Also, their support is the key to getting through 30 days of high pressure creativity and still retain your love of writing. A win for you is a win for all. Okay, maybe it’s just a win for you (Mine!), but they often bring wine, which is a win for everyone. Sláinte.
3. Time management is crucial and 50,000 words are a shit ton of words. That’s 200 pages of a novel. Instead of freaking out, think of it as the daily count of 1,667 per day and you will make it through! Write a few more words every couple of days when a scene is going well, and you can take Thanksgiving Day off with no guilt. Well, except for the guilt of loading up that plate of tryptophan and its addictive accompaniments. Twice.
4. Leave off writing with a scene you look forward to starting the next day, or at least the idea of one. This technique takes the dreaded not knowing where to begin out of the picture and gets the juices flowing right away. Coffee helps as well, the stronger the better. Preferably with whip cream and cinnamon on top.
5. Dialogue makes word counts soar! If you’re lagging behind in your word count, have characters strike up a conversation or start an argument. Next thing you know, the 1,667 will have flown by and you’ll still be writing your scene. And writing your scene. And writing your scene some more.
6. NaNo’s word counter isn’t the same as yours! To win at NaNoWriMo, a writer must copy and paste their novel (or part of a novel) into the NaNo word counter in order to verify the amount written. For all you worriers out there, the count is made and the novel is immediately dumped out of their system. NaNoWriMo.org does not keep a copy. They aren’t trying to steal your genius.
Don’t write all those words only to lose NaNo on the last day due to a technicality! The first time I put my 50,054 words into the NaNoWriMo word counter to validate my novel, did I get a huge screen that said WINNER across it followed by the sound of NaNo crew members cheering my accomplishments? NO.
What I did get was a new set of numbers, 49,765, followed by the sound of me vomiting expletives.
NaNo ate 289 of my juicy, delicious words! Where did they go? Are they lost out there somewhere, calling my name and wandering in search of other blank pages to call home? I don’t know why NaNo’s calculations are different, but not cool NaNo, not cool.
7. The feeling of accomplishment is real. This is what it looks like:
Will I participate in NaNoWriMo again? I don’t know yet. At the close of this feat, I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, which was the only competition I was aiming for the entire experience. I am left exhausted, enlightened, and content in the knowledge that I have written what equates to the size of a novella. I have at least another 50,000 words to write in my novel, and more than enough research required that will take months, in order to achieve the end goal: a complete novel.
Would I recommend participating in NaNoWriMo? Absolutely. It’s not a bad way to kick off a novel. I’m only halfway through writing mine but that’s a hell of a lot further than I was 30 days ago. NaNoWriMo might just be the kick in the ass you need to write yours too.