What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

I think I’ve only just today recovered from the sleep deprivation that was last month’s flurry of creative writing called NaNoWriMo.

For those who don’t know it, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, in which you attempt to write a 50,000 word draft in 30 days!

Some folks have even moved on to perfecting their draft from this month into actual novels.  Winners get the self-satisfaction of having met such a goal, as well as a 50% off code for the incredibly useful novel/screenwriting/etc. literary organization software, Scrivener.

I didn’t manage to make it to 50k words (more like 18k), but what a learning experience it was!  Here are a few things I learned during this wild writing ride:

1.  Refreshing the Creative Well – The most important thing I learned is that having an outlet from your main craft which you can pursue without too much expectation can really refresh your inspirational well!  I’ve been feeling so tired and overwhelmed lately and participating in NaNo was just the shot in the arm I needed to find my motivation again.  Thankfully, the characters I’ve been exploring for NaNo have given me the right kind of urges to illustrate my own scenes, draw concept sheets, and much, much more!  It’s an amazing cross-pollination of inspiration.

If you’d like to read some snippets from my NaNo Novel, you can check them out here to see what I’m talking about. (WARNING! Unedited raw draft stuff plus some cursing. Melakim is quite the foul-mouth.  I love her.♥)

–  A Ceremony for Creative Thought – I was made pointedly aware that I have an actual ceremony for my creative process when it comes to writing.  It requires doing something to transition my brain from ‘work mode’ to ‘writing mode’ by resetting it with either exercise and/or an episode of something brainless (like One Piece) to empty my head of work thoughts.

I must then have coffee and something sweet before I sit down to keep me going the whole time, lest I stop and have to retrieve a snack partway and ruin the flow.  I also must write after everyone is asleep because any interruption throws me out of my flow.  Music was a particularly powerful tool for keeping me in the ‘mood’ of the story. I began my nights almost every night by listening to Song of Exile for Ramah’s scenes and What the Water Gave Me for Melakim’s scenes. (I’ve got a whole playlist for novel writing, if anyone’s especially curious what I listen to)

Getting immersed is important for me. All e-mail notifications and social media outlets are banned from my sight while I am doing this.  I need to apply this to my art time too. I have a bad habit of hawk-eyeing my e-mail, messengers, and other things while I work and it probably does  make me less productive than I could be.

– Sleep Deprivation is Unproductive – I haven’t done this many late nights in a row since college.  I can’t say that pushing myself this way really ended up making me more productive, in the end. Maybe it is for short term bursts just to get words on paper, but I think I prefer to be much well paced and less sleep crazed as I continue to write this draft in the future. Not sleeping does not help my mood or creativity, but rather causes me to doze off in the middle of trying to think of the more mundane details of a story while I’m writing.  It needs to be a balance of keeping our bodies healthy AND being properly productive.

– Routine Equals Productivity and Accountability – By the same token, scheduling myself to write almost every night really gave me a sense of accountability for doing this activity.  It made me look forward to it each night and set a high bar that something, ANYthing needed to be done at this point in time, or I am returning to old habits where I’d convince myself the tiny accomplishment wasn’t worth it because it would never amount to anything.  I think I need to push my art and drawing time the same way if I really want to get to the next level in my skills.  Those tiny studies and sketches are going to equal improvement, no matter how insignificant they might feel, at first.

All in all, it was an amazing experience!  I am hopeful that by the time the next NaNoWriMo rolls around, I’ll have a full draft to be editing.  Or maybe I’ll use it as an excuse to write the adventures of that immortal Gypsy vagabond that’s been chilling in the Neglected Characters Bar in the back of my head?  You never know!

So did any of you do NaNoWriMo?  What did you learn about yourself from this experience?  How has this informed your other creative habits?  Share with me in comments!

6 comments

  1. Ben says:

    I participated in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time. I’ve never done this much writing before, but I have to say, I found it a lot of fun. I didn’t finish either, but just trying it showed me what fun it could be and it’s just another thing that will be added to the things that are fun for me to do. My creativity jumped as the month went on. The story I’m working on I’ve had the idea for a while and it was surprising how much it changed as the month went on. I just kept coming up with better ideas. 🙂

    • I noticed my ideas became clearer the more I explored them in detail as well! I just love putting together the pieces of a puzzle and figuring out how my characters got from here to there. Sometimes you run upon things even you didn’t know. Writing is a wonderfully organic process that way!

  2. Raven says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I will be interested in reading what you wrote. I’ve been teaching writing for 14 years, (and before that I was a P.R writer for a theatre), but I’ve only begun to dream on paper a few years ago. I started with comedy skits, and won Disney’s contest for my parody of the TV show Legend of the Seeker. My goal has always been a fantasy novel, but time is limited. – Raven

    • That’s wonderful, Raven! If you’ve come this far, I’m sure you are more than capable of getting that novel of yours out. I think it will be easier than we think, once we can just get that raw stuff of dreams out on paper!

      I’ll probably be posting a large chunk from my NaNo up here:
      http://angelasasser-story.deviantart.com

      Till then, all that’s up is the excerpts linked through to my Tumblr in this post. I hope you enjoy them! They are like little delicious bites of characters. I had a lot of fun with them.:)

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