There’s a lot to learn from participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Usually it teaches me that I can do more than I ever thought possible. It rejuvenates my writing soul and builds my confidence. Plus, I love winning! 😉
But there’s something to be learned from failure too, which made this year’s NaNo a different kind of learning experience for me.
At the end of October I talked about how I need a better outline before I begin writing. And I had a good start on one before November 1st hit, but I hadn’t finished it. Still, I thought it was enough to take the plunge.
So I ended up with about 16,000 words before I realized I had no idea where I was going with the book and that I could spend all of November stressing out while writing a bunch of crap to make a goal, or I could relax and work on my outline.
I chose the second option. Which was hard. I’m really competitive, and one of the reasons NaNo works so well for me is the specter of public humiliation if I don’t meet my goal.
But if you’re working on the wrong goal, completing it doesn’t help you, it only wastes time and energy. It’s like driving 70 miles per hour toward New York when you’re supposed to be heading to San Francisco.
Outlining takes so much longer than I expect to do it right, but I’m amazed at how much the story idea changed—for the better—when I sat down to work on it further. In fact, at some point I had a brilliant (I reserve the right to change my mind about that later) idea, and my hero’s entire story arc and background just fell into place.
So, no three-peat for me this year, but I think I gained something more valuable than 50K. Namely, a better understanding of the process I need to go through, and a growing outline of what I hope will be my next finished novel.
And next year, I’ll make sure I have a solid understanding of my story before I dive into NaNo for win number three.
I’d love to hear your NaNoWriMo stories. What did you learn this year?
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