I did it. I NaNo’d and won. Winning, for those new to NaNo, is an individual accomplishment of writing 50,000+ words during the month of November.* I pulled an idea from my folder and played around with it, putting together a rough plot outline in the last few days of October. Then, starting November 1, I wrote every day, finishing a rough draft of my first novel, Bell Woods, this afternoon. Here’s what I learned.
1. I can write. Who knows how well, but I can pump out words, including, to my surprise, dialogue. Fast fingers definitely help, as does letting go of worries about quality.
2. You learn by doing. A month of writing, over 50,000 words, has increased my stamina and my knowledge of story structure. Even if I couldn’t achieve it, I could recognize how tension builds, how story lines intersect, how to make a character or situation disappear for a while and reappear. I have no doubt that when I do this again, I’ll be able to do it a lot better.
3. Writing improves reading. I’ve also noticed effects on my reading, particularly re-reading. I can see how things are planted, how they grow through a story, what characters are simply sounding boards for ideas. So cool to gain this insight into a craft that I love.
4. I love writing. What amazing escapism to get to create my own world! I can make absolutely anything I want happen there. To the extent that my skills allow, I can make my dream book come into existence. What a rush, what joy, what an awesome hobby to have.
I will be doing this again. Definitely. As for my rough draft, I’m going to let it sit for a few weeks and look forward to reading it through in a while. I haven’t read it yet – no editing or back-tracking is part of the NaNo ethos – and my draft now sits, a delightful** present waiting to be opened.
* As an aside, I absolutely love the non-competitive nature of NaNo. It’s all about creating community, supporting one another and helping as many people as possible to live their writing dreams.