This year was my first attempting National Novel Writing Month’s great 50k words in 30 days challenge. I’ve been hanging around on the sidelines wondering if I have what it takes for several years now, and abruptly—here in the middle of my senior year of college—I decided it was my time.
And I did it. I actually surpassed 52k on November 30th, claiming my official win plus. My odds actually hadn’t been that great. If I was like a lot of participants, attempting their first novel, I doubt that I could have done it. But even if I hadn’t been able to pull it off, I think it would have been well worth the try, because doing something that extreme teaches you things.
So, without further ado, here’s what I learned on the front lines of NaNoWriMo.
1. I learned how to save images I edited in Photoshop so that the internet would acknowledge their existence. Big revelation. I figured out how to do this when saving my cover image for my NaNo novel. You “save for the web.” Never would have thought of that. Ha. I’m so techno-savvy. But I’m glad I got this figured out, so now I can edit title images for this blog, and stick them on Pinterest and stuff. Better late than never.
2. Better late than never. That’s something else I learned. I was 10k words behind up until Thanksgiving break. I kept seeing people on the forums freaking out over being 2k behind, or so. I gritted my teeth and caught up suddenly in the home stretch. It was totally possible!
3. Along the same lines, I discovered the hidden true moral of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” We were supposed to win NaNo by way of the tortoise’s strategy. Just one foot in front of the other, 1,667 words a day. But if you look at my chart of daily word count throughout the month, you see that’s not what I did at all. There were about ten days where I hit and exceeded the target word-count. I worked in hare-like sprints. Guys, the only reason the hare lost the race was because he fell asleep. Therefore, the true moral of the story was: no sleeping.
4. Stopwatches are better than timers. This is a crazy fact that I discovered, and it may quite possibly be only true for me. When I set a thirty-minute timer, I was lucky to get 500 words down in that time. I thought that was my limit. Then I set a stopwatch. When I hit 500 words, I stopped it--always between 15 and 12 minutes. Crazy.
5. All dialogue should be argumentative underneath. This keeps it from getting boring and loosing connection with the plot. If there’s always some sort of conflict of interests underneath the conversation, it becomes a lot more logical, and easier to know what the character should say next. Even if the conflict is very small and petty, it’s going to help.
6. Collapsing bridges and crashing helicopters are good things. I think this is self-explanatory. I mean, everybody knows this, right?
7. And lastly, writing is not supposed to be as serious as we try to make it all the time. I wrote this novel to prove that to myself once and for all. We novelists spend so much time agonizing over unattainable perfection. I’m done trying to take myself so seriously. We have one of the most fun occupations in the world. It’s time to cut loose and enjoy it.
One more thing before I go. Here is the cover of my NaNo project. It’s never going to be published. I mean, it’s written from the perspective of my childhood imaginary enemy. I’m in it as a character and mentioned by name, and portrayed in a rather negative light, I must say. I needed to write a piece of literature with absolutely no pressure hanging over it, so that’s what I did.
But now, back to reality. I’ve got to try to attain perfection with the draft of a dystopian novel I’ve got scheduled for release in February 2017.