Some days were more effective than others. The beginning was easy; the middle, long and dragging; the ending (the last 20,000 words) took me two days to write, and that was even after I'd reached the 50,000-word goal and the month was over. Just because you reach 50k doesn't mean the book is done!
It's one of my favorite manuscripts now. It's the one I'm still revising and planning to take to agents later this month. And I might not have ever finished it if it weren't for NaNoWriMo.
Accountability. As I see it, the biggest benefit of NaNoWriMo is the built-in accountability. Every day you're supposed to log in and record your current word count. The website calculates how many words you wrote that day, and displays your totals on a really nifty little chart.
|My progress from 2012, when I finally exceeded the daily goal.|
Community. You and I are not the only ones trying to write a book in a month. The community both on NaNoWriMo.org and on Twitter bursts into full bloom during November. The #NaNo hashtag is a surefire way to find other people doing the same thing you are--and I probably grew my follower count by 150+.
Preparation. The key to successfully completing NaNoWriMo is having an idea in advance of what you're getting yourself into. A lot of folks pants it; that's fine. If you're a pantser, and you know that's your style--go for it.
I'm more of a planner, but not to any extreme. I won't go into a project without at least having a starting image and an ending image. (I could write a whole post about this--and maybe I will someday--but I do this primarily because endings and beginnings are so important; they should have adequate contrast and parallel in order to feel satisfying to the reader, and so that's where I start with planning a novel.)
But the most effective preparation I did for last year's NaNo was this: a writing sample. The rules of the game are pretty clear: it doesn't matter if you've already started writing the manuscript, as long as you write 50,000 words by the end of the month.
Which is actually quite freeing. I was able to sit down weeks before November 1st and start playing with the style, tone, and voice of my upcoming novel. What did I want this manuscript to sound like? Who were my heroes? I wrote both character introductions--both of which I ended up scrapping before going live. I wrote sample sections from later in the story; important events that would need to happen sooner or later. It was a great exercise.
Finishing. I didn't finish my manuscript by the end of the month, though I did hit the 50,000-word goal. Because, frankly, 50,000 words is not a finished product. Maybe--maybe--if you're writing middle-grade, sure. Okay. But for 90% of us? You'll need to keep going.
The great thing about NaNoWriMo is the state of mind it creates. You get used to writing 1,500 words each day, or playing catch-up if you didn't meet your goal the day before. You become a total boss at finding bits and pieces of time to write whenever you can.
So you'll still finish, even once you've passed the November finish line.
I hope you'll be participating in National Novel Writing Month with me!