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10 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo LogoI’ve been rather neglecting my blog recently due to scribbling away at NaNoWriMo. After reaching the magic 50,000 words, I finally emerged from my writer’s cave to find that there is actually a world out there apart from the one in my novel and those people who look vaguely familiar are in fact my friends and family. The fridge has been restocked, there is now food in the house, apart from the coffee intravenous drip on which I subsisted during NaNo, and I have rediscovered that I do know how to cook!

So, now NaNo has been over for a couple of weeks, here are a few things I learned which might either help you for next time or keep you writing after NaNo :):

  • It’s okay to skip. You really don’t have to slog all the way through your novel in order from beginning to end unless you want to. If you get stuck on what happens in the next chapter, how about writing that scene you’ve been itching to get to but which doesn’t come into the book until chapter 22? It’s okay to do that. No-one will know and you may well find you get ideas for the scene you’re stuck on while you write something else. This year, I wrote the beginning and some following scenes, the end, then went back and filled in a few scenes just before the end. If I get stuck I write what I can then make a highlighted note to come back to it and go and do another bit.
  • Write notes and research down for scenes you’ve thought of but haven’t got chance to write in full yet, so that you don’t lose the ideas. I have a notebook and pen next to my bed for those pesky ideas that won’t leave me alone when I’ve shut down my computer for the night. I also don’t go anywhere without a pad and pen – there’s really nothing worse than having a brilliant idea in the middle of Tesco and then not being able to remember it by the time I get home.
  • Before you finish for the day, try writing a few notes about what you’d like to work on the  following day. That gets rid of that horrible moment when you look at a blank page and have no idea what to write. I also tend to list any scenes I can think of with just one or two lines of description, change the font colour so they stand out and then I can go back and fill them in whenever I’m ready. That way, I’ve never got ‘nothing to write’ when I come back to my novel :).
  • If you get stuck, try doing something else creative – drawing, sewing, painting. Failing that just have a break – do the dishes, go for a walk. It’s amazing what your subconscious will do while you’re not thinking about your story.
  • It can be hard writing 1666 words a day if you’re not used to it. So what can you manage? How about 400 words a day – just about half the length of this article? Do that every day for a year and you’ll have written 146,000 words – enough for 2 books!
  • Keep your full NaNo draft, exactly as it is so you can refer back to it. Of course you’ll need to edit it, proofread and do some rewriting, but if you keep each draft you can go back and check your original ideas if you need to, not to mention if you edit something and then decide you’d rather use what you had in the first draft, you can still change it back.
  • Following on from that, if you need to delete a scene or a chapter, keep it. You never know what else you might be able to use it in or what ideas you might get from it for a whole other story.
  • Write your own way – with music on, while watching TV, in complete silence; with pen and paper, by recording it, on your favourite software. There is no ‘right way’, only whatever works for you.
  • It’s okay not to hit 50,000 words. Sometimes life just gets in the way. It’s a hard thing to achieve and anyone who even attempts it is a winner.
  • After NaNo, if you need one, give yourself a break. Have a rest, go and do other things, catch up with those other people in your house who you’re sure you should remember… 😉

Now it’s all over, keep writing!

How about you, what are your tips for writing after NaNo’s over?