10 Years of NaNoWrimo

It’s the night before NaNo (Oh my god it’s the night before NaNo!), and I thought since this will be my tenth year participating I would honour the occasion by looking back at my previous NaNo years. I first heard about the National Novel Writing Month in 2008 from a friend at Uni and made the last minute decision on 31st October to sign up and participate. I remember being so worried about not reaching the 50k goal my first story had 4000 words just on a lady vacuuming her house. I have since learnt my lesson and trusted my story will stretch without the inane fillers.

I have been lucky enough to reach the 50k goal each year, mainly I think because I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t. I’ve had a few years where I have been well behind, well behind, and had marathon word count days to catch up. In 2013 I had to write 12 800 words on the final day to make my goal. It was probably the most stressed I have ever been for NaNo. I finished at 11:56pm, uploaded and verified with minutes to spare. I had been counting down the clock for the final 24 hours and had 15k to write in that time. It didn’t help either that that particular year was tough because while I’d loved my story idea, after the halfway point it was like pulling teeth.

I also finished with 45 minutes to spare in 2015. That wasn’t a tough year story-wise, I quite enjoyed it. The main rule to remember is as long as you get 50k by the 30th, it doesn’t matter when you hit each word count goal. In 2014 I didn’t get 25k until the 22nd and yet by the 30th I had my 50k. I’ve also started one week in on numerous occasions when I was still at uni, sometimes even two weeks in. The delightful year was when I had to do the two side by side and was trying to do NaNo and assignments alongside one another. Fun times.

My best and the most favourite year wasย in 2012 where I smashed the 50k and wrote almost 60 000 words, exceeding the daily word count every single day. I went back and worked on this story again last year, adding another 25k whilst writing a short story collection alongside it. I plan to do the same again this year, it’s definitely the story I want to finish and refine out of all I’ve written.

There is a wonderful thrill about doing NaNo. I love the prospect of diving into a fresh new story, discovering where it will go and realising more often than not how unprepared you actually are. And knowing you are doing it alongside millions of people around the world is a great comfort. There’s a resource right there for guidance and support, people who know what it is like.

My favourite thing on the website is the personal stats. Not only do you get the usual per day ones once the event starts, you also get the Expected Finish Date, which in the past has often said mid March the following year when I’ve been quite behind. I also love the new one which tells you the Total Word Count of all your NaNo pieces. It makes you feel rather proud when it tells you you’ve written over 465 000 words.

Ten Years of Genres

I have written many types of stories for NaNo, I’ve liked writing all of them, but some I pulled off better than others.

2008: Mainstream Fiction
2009: Satirical
2010: Romance
2011: Historical/Family Saga
2012: Mainstream Fiction
2013: Historical
2014: New Adult
2015: Fantasy
2016: Short Stories
2017: Mainstream Fiction

I couldn’t really say which one I liked better in terms of genre. Fantasy was fun, but historical was as well. And Mainstream is easy because there’s technically less you have to research when it’s all right in front of you and not 80 years ago or locked in your imagination.

 

Advice

I can’t go on about being part of NaNo for ten years without leaving you with advice for first-timers.

  1. Quantity over quality

Resist the urge to edit. It will be hard, I know the pain of wanting to get a scene/paragraph/sentence just right, but this is not the time. There’s a strong chance the entire page and the three before it will be scrapped in the second draft, so don’t waste valuable time critiquing what you have. Just get it on the page; the time to edit is December 1st.

  1. Use the Forums

They are a brilliant resource for inspiration, challenges, distractions, or self-promotion. I have used the forums numerous times over the year for title ideas, shout outs for personal word count goals, or just for some fun games to relax. You can talk through problems or discuss non-Nano things as well. There’s groups for other people in your area too so you can have some nearby support, and there’s always someone willing to help.

  1. WriteOrDie is a gift from the writing gods

It is your friend, your saviour, and a god among writing programs. My love for this online resource knows no bounds. It has helped me through every single one of my stories. It helps you push through the urge to stop and think by punishing you if you pause to long. It also makes me think on my feet and actually makes ideas flow much better.

  1. Reward your achievements

They donโ€™t have to be big. Have a chocolate for hitting the daily word count. Hit a personal goal? Reward yourself. Motivate yourself to keep going; it will be amazing how much you can get done when you add up the little goals you’ve set during the day or the week.

  1. Listen to all the advice out there.

There are always tips and tricks for doing NaNo. The NanoWriMo Twitter is always offering advice and doing writing challenges to help the word counters rise. There are professional and published authors out there who still do NaNo, they have advice as well on how to keep going when it seems like you’re at a loss.

  1. Don’t Worry if You Don’t Reach 50k

And last of all: don’t worry. If you don’t hit 50k, that’s fine. You still tried. And maybe next year you’ll get closer. Remember that whatever you ended up with is more than what you had in October, and it’s a start onto something amazing.ย Be proud of what you are doing. Not everyone is trying to write a novel in 30 days.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in NaNo, whether you are seasoned or diving in for the first time.

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