Lessons from #NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2019 winner's badgeSo I managed to write 50,000 words in November. See that shiny NaNoWriMo winner’s badge? Yeah, I earned that. Yeah. I did. Me. Winner. [thumps chest]

I won NaNo once previously, in 2014 when I was drafting a novel called Vanishing, Inc. that still isn’t quite done yet because I’ve been revising it since 2015. sigh Anyway, I was proud of myself then, but this NaNo feels even more satisfying, because it was so much harder. Some days it felt like I was doing nothing more than spewing verbal vomit all over my screen, solely because I wanted to get those damn 50,000 words (Which I did. Me. Winner. Thumps chest.) Sure, some days my muse showed up, and the words flowed like a mountain stream after a thunderstorm. Most days, though, my muse was holed up in her crappy, roach-infested apartment, swigging tequila and passing out on the bathroom floor instead of showing up for work like a responsible adult. My muse has issues. And therefore so did I, all through November.

I can’t say I enjoyed NaNo this year, because, truth be told, I didn’t. Most mornings I faced my screen and keyboard with a sense of mild despair. I’d looked forward to writing this novel for years, and it Just. Wouldn’t. Come. But each day I dutifully assumed the position and start typing. Sometimes I felt better after writing, but a lot of times I left my office more discouraged than I was when I started, because I was convinced that my muse had deserted me–the drunken floozy—and left me with only the Demon of Suckitude for company. I couldn’t think of character names. I couldn’t think of strong verbs. My vocabulary had been reduced to that of a baboon on ‘ludes.

But a funny thing happened as I went along. I still fought for every word some days, but other days I’d read a bit of what I’d already written and think, “Ya know, that’s not too bad for a baboon on ‘ludes.” And I’d write with a little less angst and a little more hope that I wasn’t a huge failure permanently possessed by the Demon of Suckitude.

So I learned some valuable lessons last month, the most significant of which were:

  • Just keep writing. Let the words suck. You can always revise later. I’d heard this advice, even given this advice, but I’d never needed it more than I did last month. And I took that advice. And it worked.
  • Show up every day, even you really don’t feel like it, even when your muse (the drunken floozy) can’t be bothered. Put your butt in the chair and keep it there till you’ve met your goal for the day. Sometimes the words will come, and sometimes they won’t, but you likely won’t know which will be the case beforehand. On several days, I woke up literally dreading the morning’s writing, but once I got going, the words flowed, and I had fun. Your mood is not an accurate gauge of whether you’ll have a productive writing session, so just sit down and write.
  • Don’t assume your work sucks just because you think it does. Your mood may be coloring your view of your work. Just write, even when you feel like you’re wasting time and electrons. You may be pleasantly surprised later.

I know these lessons are common advice in the writing community, but this year, for the first time, I learned the value of actually following that advice. It worked. I wrote 50,000 words, at least some of which didn’t suck.

Me. Winner. (thumps chest)


3 thoughts on “Lessons from #NaNoWriMo

  1. Yes! This NaNo was NOT one of my better ones, but I kept showing up at the keyboard, and ultimately, somewhere in the giant stack of papers on my desk are some gems. I think. I hope.

    Oh, that poor drunken floozy! 🙂 Maybe she just needs some love and understanding?

    Liked by 1 person

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