NaNoWriMo 2013, a debriefing

So, I did it. On November 29, 2013, I finished my “novel” (which was really a collection of short stories, but whatever) and won NaNoWriMo.

In those twenty-nine days, I wrote 50,349 words, which ended up being 173 pages, consisting of 26 different stories.

It was exhausting, excruciating, and challenging. But it was awesome.

I definitely plan to do it again next year, but I also definitely learned some things I can apply to any future writing challenges like that. I also learned some interesting things about myself and my writing. And, while I’m really excited about the amount of material I have to work with in revision and rewriting in the coming months (twenty-six stories, folks. twenty. six.), I’m even more excited about what I have learned about who I am as a writer and what works best.

Here are some thoughts on my experience, more for my own personal reference than anything else.

  1. Writing short stories is fun because you get to do something new each time you approach the computer for your writing time.
  2. Writing short stories is exhausting because you have to do something new each time you approach the computer for your writing time.
  3. Twizzlers are my writing food of choice. I will forever associate Twizzlers with writing because of the vast quantity I consumed during NaNoWriMo. (Turns out, I’m the only one in the house who likes them, and my kids had just been trick-or-treating. So it goes…)
  4. Dialogue is a great way to keep the flow of writing going (even if it’s horrible dialogue). And I am a master at horrible dialogue.
  5. Writing in first person makes the writing flow more easily for me. I don’t always like using first person, but I continually reminded myself that it could always be changed later.
  6. Same with names. Just go with it. Call that guy Bob. Call her Sally. You can change names easily with a find and replace. Just keep writing and worry about those kinds of details later. Getting hung up on something as simple as a name is a horrible way to slow down your pace.
  7. Apparently, I really struggle with stories of how people met. Always drawing a blank. I think I put too much pressure on these stories, when really they don’t need to be “cute” or “unique.” They just need to be real.
  8. When I write dialogue, it tends to go on and on and on… And on. My characters found themselves talking a lot without really saying anything of substance. (I blame all the seasons of Dawson’s Creek I devoured years ago.)
  9. Frequently, my characters don’t tend to do anything. I think this is very reflective of my own sedentary tendencies.
  10. I gave up reading “for fun” and instead only allowed myself to read books on writing, or writing prompt books. While the writing books, most often, helped with my writing, I think that the absence of exposure to fiction affected my writing detrimentally. This will be something to consider in the future.
  11. When you write a story you really, really love. It’s okay to write one that you hate. Not all of them will be that good. It happens. It’s okay. Maybe the bad ones will turn into something great later!
  12. Writing every day might not be my thing. I found myself needing a break of more than 24 hours on occasion. Trying to write 2k a day is a bit too much, and some of the evenings where I forced myself to crank out huge amounts were more gratifying (and successful) than the days where I just met my personal “minimum” word count goal.
  13. Knowing where a story is going to end works best for me. If I know “where I’m going” I have a much easier time getting there.

I’ll likely elaborate more on many of these ideas and themes in the weeks and months ahead. I like discovering who I am as a writer and what works for me. I was never very introspective with my writing years ago, and while I don’t think that hurt me then, I think this level of self-awareness and reflection is valuable for the writer I am now.

But, regardless of all that. I did it. I did the thing, and that feels really, really great.


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