My Thoughts: Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo 2014

This year's NaNoWriMo challenge was my least favourite. It felt sluggish, obligatory, awkward and unsuccessful. But I did it anyway.

I haven't quite put my finger on the exact reason or reasons this year's challenge left me feeling so uncertain and unfulfilled but I'm hoping writing this may help me to figure that out... or to feel otherwise.

  • I was worried that planning would stunt my creativity. It did and it didn't. It did insofar as that part of the creative process was over - i.e. I knew where the story was going and where it would (roughly) end - but that didn't mean the whole month was a monotonous creativity-free void. If anything, it let me focus on the words and trying to be more creative with the words and details.
  • Planning works, but it's not a fix-all solution. I still got stuck, I still found plotholes, and I still felt lost or distracted.
  • Short stories are a million times easier to write than a novel. You can see the end before you start. I'm currently 60,000 words into my first novel and the end is still clouded by trees, smoke and monsters.
  • Writing a novel when you're not sure you like your main character feels like being forced to hang out with somebody you don't trust; it's intriguing but ultimately unnerving.
  • And building on from that, I realised that I have to have characters that I DO like. I knew this as I started to make a couple of fringe characters much "bigger" and "brighter" players in the story.
  • I find writing exciting, action-packed or key scenes much easier than those which build up to them... but I find writing this kind of scene exhausting, and imagine the reader will be the same.
  • I am a lesser writer - nay, person - without tea.
  • If a scene bores me - as in I start looking at the hob and thinking about polishing it - I need to change something about it, or possibly even scrap it.
  • I am not all about the action or progressing a plot. I like to spend a little time capturing a moment or a details.
  • Sometimes I like writing for the sake of writing, even if the words won't make it past the first edit.
  • I need to write character profiles and start collating all the details I'm revealing about them in one place.
  • I need to find photos of real-life people for my characters in order to keep descriptions consistent. (I know lots of authors do this, but for some weird reason I'm a bit freaked out by it and still haven't done it.)
  • I may have completely overshot how many different storylines are in this book...
  • I am getting much better at pushing through the resistance. If I choose to confront it, nine times out of ten, I will beat it. I just have to get myself in battle mode.
  • I find writing in airports incredibly productive. I think it's because there is a deadline ahead of me, i.e. I have to get on the plane before it leaves.
  • I fell behind much earlier than ever before and I didn't stay on top of my word counts... at all. I needed three days of "sprint" style catch-ups in order to stay in the game. At first, this made me feel rotten and useless, but then I felt a calm acceptance of it all and focused more on "doing what I could" rather than "getting ahead". I now no longer have that deep fear of falling behind.
  • After spending 18 months writing more often on my lap than not during our travels, I now HATE it. I didn't do any sums but I'm 99% sure that I write twice as fast at my desk with a proper keyboard and a monitor.
  • I didn't let life get in the way. Despite travelling to London, spending four days and a hectic conference, getting on a plane to South Africa and finishing up two demanding copywriting projects, I still did my words.
  • Word count deadlines still work for me. I need to be more forceful with myself and ensure I set me own each month.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? How was it for you?

If you'd like to read more NaNoWriMo experience stories, you can read these interviews. And if you need writing inspiration, check out 30 posts of writing inspiration I wrote aimed at keeping writers focused during NaNoWriMo 2014.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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