In case you’re not aware, this past November I took part in a writing contest called NaNoWriMo – AKA National Novel Writing Month. It’s a worldwide contest where contestants try to write 50,000 words in one month. That doesn’t sound like a lot, so here are some word lengths of your favourite books.
According to commonplacebook.com, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone contains 77,325 words. Lord of the Flies has 59,900, The Fault in Our Stars has 67,203, and Anne of Green Gables has 97,364. NaNoWriMo isn’t necessarily about writing a complete novel, but it’s a lot.
From taking part in NaNoWriMo, I learned some great lessons that you could maybe apply to your own life.
Deadlines (or accountability) make things happen.
Having a specific goal with a deadline, did wonders for my trying to write. I found time in the most unexpected places like the half hour between two classes, or during down time at a rehearsal. The deadline made me want to write.
A community provides role models, support, and advice.
I liked being able to look up other contestants in this contest and see the amazing work they were doing. Their high word counts drove me to keep going, and inspired me to keep trying. I was able to turn to other writers on the online forums for advice and words of encouragement. It has made me want to find a writer’s group here in Saskatoon.
Milestone rewards are the greatest thing ever.
50,000 is too big. Too daunting. But 5,000 words isn’t so bad… Well how about 5,000 more? 7,000? Oh look at that you’re already at 17,000! My milestone rewards for writing consisted mostly of getting to watch episodes of my favourite period dramas. These rewards are pretty much the only reason I haven’t binge watched the second season of The Crown yet. But they got my butt in the chair and my fingers flying trying to reach the next milestone so I could feel a little bit of success and achievement.
Stats speak to me.
Every day I would check out my author page and see my novel stats throughout the competition. It would tell me how many words I wrote that day, and how many words a day I would need to write to win the contest, and when I would reach 50,000 words if I continued at my current pace. It was amazing and such a driving force. I liked seeing if I could get my end date closer to November 30 (I went into the contest knowing I wouldn’t be able to actually win).
Just get a rough draft out, even if it’s mostly garbage.
I’m not a perfectionist, but getting caught up in details and intricacies has been my undoing for finishing a first draft of a novel. NaNoWriMo taught me to just keep ploughing through, forget the crappiness of yesterday’s writing and just get to the finish line. You should not be editing during the drafting process! At least, for me.
I like writing.
Writing reminded me that I like writing, and that I should keep doing it because, even if I never get published – although I want to get published, as I’ve mentioned here – writing feeds my soul and everyone should do what feeds their soul.
That’s all for now, folks. I hope you aren’t suffering from winter blues.