5 Things I’ve Learned From NaNo

NaNo is done for another year, and I’m pleased to report I’ve been victorious! (at least, I bloody hope so. Writing this two days before the end, and I’ve only 5000 words – less, even – to go. I can write that in a day when I’m not NaNoing, so if I fall at this hurdle I deserve the humiliation of posting that I won when I didn’t!) I’m back on the blogging and normal service of regular post updates will resume. I have about three weeks of ‘Weekly updates’ to catch up on (oops) and plenty of other things coming up.

Every year, NaNo is a learning curve. The first year I did it, I learned that I could do it, and how hard it was. The second time I learned I could do it while working on one project, which I hadn’t done the year before.

This year, I’ve been working on the Augurdale project. Which means the writing I’ve done is all within the same world, most of it on book one, though some on short stories. And though it’s the third year running I’ve participated in and won NaNo, there’s still plenty that I’ve learned.

1. I can write a hell of a lot in half an hour if I want to

Some days, I literally only get half an hour to write – my lunch break. This means typing on my phone, which isn’t exactly ideal for speed, and it means working without all the stuff I have on my computer – character notes, pinterest boards, plot outlines, the rest of the manuscript etc. I took to choosing an interesting scene I knew was going to be an important point in the novel and spending half an hour plugging away at it. I think I averaged about 800 words, but some days I was on 1,200. Which is a hell of a headstart if you get a bit of time to finish your session later on. Of course, it’s easier writing a lot when it’s the ‘candy bar’ scenes, but it just goes to show how much you can achieve without distraction if you put your mind to it.

2. It doesn’t get any easier

I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but that doesn’t mean I breeze through it. Some days I struggle to write anything. There were a couple of days I wrote nothing – and knew I would write nothing, because I’d already anticipated it. There was one day when I wasn’t supposed to be writing nothing and I wrote 25 words. I was almost embarrassed to record them, but 25 words is still 25 I don’t have to write extra the next day. It’s an incredible feat of endurance to stick at something that long, and keep up the momentum without coming to hate every second of it.

3. Writing every day really forces you to think outside the box

I started to struggle this year because my plot outline left a lot to be desired. It had been planned, in collaboration with Carole Heidi, who is my partner in crime on this adventure, but we didn’t really have a good idea of the characters, or really the world when we sat down to bash out a plot over a month ago.

Since then, I’ve written a lot of short stories, and Carole has been world building via the Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we have a much better handle on who everyone is, and what they do. This has meant making up a lot of stuff as I’ve gone along when writing, and changing plans. So my ‘novel’ is like a patchwork quilt of different scenes, some of which were written before the plan changed completely, and now need to be totally rewritten as a consequence. But because of all this madness, I’ve really been forced to think outside of the box to hit the daily word count. And that’s introduced some interesting scenes and characters. Which I always find very exciting 🙂

4. It’s so hard to explain ‘the point’ to friends and relatives

Why would you do it? What do you get out of it? Well, I hope to self publish the Augurdale books soon, and I’m much closer to that goal now than I was a month ago. But for the people who don’t see writing as something that can be fun and enjoyable – like fishing or cycling or knitting – it’s impossible to explain why it’s important that you write 1667 words every day. The Boyfriend tries to understand, but he’s very driven by concrete results. The fact that my previous NaNo novels are not published and not making money means he can’t understand what the point is of doing it all again. It’s a learning process, I say. I wrote the last NaNo novel because I hadn’t written anything in so long I thought I’d forgotten how. It was never meant to be published… But the more I talk, the more his eyes glaze over. And that’s hard, because it’s difficult to give time to something that someone in your life doesn’t place value in. It feels like you’re being bad to them somehow.

5. It’s impossible to type quietly

The best time for me to get some writing in is in the moments when the Boyfriend is ready to go to sleep (he works very late shifts sometimes, and often wants to go to bed early to catch up missed sleep) and I’m not ready to go to bed, because it’s 8pm. The problem is, I often disturb him because, try as I might, I can’t type quietly. It’s partly because I type so fast, but it’s also just impossible, because no matter how gently you press the keys they make annoying clicking noises. Even when I’m in the study, the noise disturbs the Boyfriend in the otherwise silence of the night (The study doesn’t have a door, which doesn’t help). If someone could invent a silent keyboard, that would be brilliant. I suppose I could invest in an iPad, but I actually really hate typing on a screen. If I do ever start making something of myself in the writing world though, I think an iPad will be a necessary evil if I need to hit deadlines without driving the Boyfriend insane with sleep loss!


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