I’ve completed NaNoWriMo four times. Last year I even reached 80,000 words of half-decent story in 27 days.
You’d think that might mean I’ve learnt a lot about writing and word counts, particularly something more than “it’s good to write every day,” which is what I hear most often about the premise of NaNoWriMo. But it seems that each lesson may only apply to this one piece of work, with different lessons only applying to different pieces.
– Trust the story. This year I’ve been skipping ahead to begin the scenes that I’m passionate about, instead of being linear. Which meant that I began the ‘final battle’ scene when I was only 20,000 words in. But it turns out that my characters aren’t as easily boxed in as I’d thought, and when I tried to tie up some loose ends, a dragon emerged and a simple piece of jewellery became important. And somehow it makes sense without feeling like I’ve thrown in a get out clause.
– Sometimes starting a scene can lead to gold. When I don’t know where else I want to go, I’ve been jumping to the next logical point and just beginning a scene. Sometimes these two sentences give me enough of a stepping stone that I can see a good scene later on (which I may then skip to), and sometimes they become a good scene or open up a new possibility. I may not keep that scene in the novel, but if it’s helped me unravel a bit more of the story, I call it successful.
– Taking breaks is good for me. Although it goes against a lot of the advice, I know that starting early and then taking days off to rest from the story or to plan means that I can keep the enthusiasm and return with fresh eyes every few days.
Although NaNoWriMo has it’s own rules, I think it’s a useful way to discover what works well for each writer.
It’s the 14th of November, which magically means I’m on Day 15 of NaNoWriMo. I began NaNoWriMo 8 days early, and because I took a week off, I’m now only one day ahead. But the slack provided what I’d intended it to. Yesterday’s final word count came to 24,062 words, so I only have 950 words to write today to meet the mid-way point.
I thought I was on the final scene, but thanks to trusting my story, I’ve now got a bunch of dragons to handle. And I think I know where they’re going next.