Lessons from NaNoWriMo

The novel I started for NaNoWriMo is now at 62,000 words, and I’m perhaps 2/3 of the way through it. My current goal is to have the first draft complete before the end of January, so I can spend February and March editing it down.

But I thought now was a good time to reflect on those first 50,000 words, written in a frenzy in November, and put together a few things I learned by going through NaNoWriMo:

  • I’m not just a short-story writer. True, I have no idea how good the final draft of this novel will turn out to be. But for a few years now I’ve been thinking of myself as a short-form author, so focused on brevity and quick pacing that I didn’t think I had any novel-sized ideas in me. That turns out to be completely false.
  • My inner editor has been holding me back. All that concentration on being brief, on using just the barest of brush strokes to convey action, hasn’t necessarily made my writing any stronger. Instead, it made me so scared of messing up the first draft that I didn’t get much writing done. Being forced to ignore that editorial voice has made me realize how much I’ve been self-censoring.
  • I can write 4,000 words in a day. I know because I did it, once, mid-month, to catch up to where I needed to be to finish on time. Previously I’d sometimes struggled to write 250 words in a single day, and 1,000 words was a great writing day. Now I know I can get 2,000 words down in a couple of hours, and push out twice that if I do two writing sessions in the day.