I first heard of this event about six years ago when a critique partner of mine told me about it. I'll admit, I thought the whole thing was nuts! Why would anybody kill themselves to write 50K words in 30 days, in the month of November no less? Thanksgiving alone makes the idea insane (and I also happen to have my anniversary this month, too).
But when I found myself with a novel all outlined and my last WIP scheduled to be to my agent by the end of October, I decided to give it a shot. Worse case scenario, I simply wouldn't win. So why not give it a go?
As it turns out, NaNoWriMo was very educational. I learned all kinds of things, which I'm
1. I write better in the morning. I'm sure everyone is different, but when I found the time to do it first thing, it was always easier. The words came faster and better, I wasn't as distracted, and I could enjoy the rest of my day, guilt free.
2. Having a more detailed outline really helped. I hit this point where I knew I had outlined, but apparently I hadn't written it down, or perhaps I'd written it on some scrap that I couldn't find. Point is, the writing slowed down enough that I stopped for a day to outline. Things went much smoother after that. (Did I ever stray from the outline? Absolutely. But I could just adjust it as needed.)
3. Leaving myself a note at the end of the manuscript when I finished writing for the day saved SO MUCH time! I'd simply put a note in brackets to remind myself what I planned to have happen next. I didn't have to search my outline to remember where I was. I didn't have to reread everything I'd written the day before. And as a bonus, it plopped me right into the mood of the story. The days I forgot to do this, I really regretted it.
4. I can write more than I think I can. There were a few days on my schedule that were so packed full of things I needed to do, I was certain that I couldn't do any writing. Amazingly, when I organized my time, scheduled it all—including writing time—it somehow all fit. I had to be diligent. I had to avoid Facebook and Twitter. But it WAS POSSIBLE.
5. Pushing through the void helped me find my voice. When I started, I just couldn't find the voice. It was awful, the writing was awful, but I knew I couldn't afford to wait for my muse or I wouldn't meet my goal. As it turns out, pushing through helped me find it. Will I have a ton to revise? YES! But I always do. Even when I have the voice from the beginning. Forcing yourself to write ugly words can lead you to the better ones.
Despite my qualms with this whole event, I am now I convert. I learned so much about me and how I write. After 30 days of this boot-camp, I feel like a better writer. Admittedly, I'm not promising to participate next year, BUT . . . I plan to use this writing method to write the first draft of my next book (which I plan to do much sooner than November).
So how about the rest of you? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? If yes, what did you learn? If no, think you'll ever try it?