Is NaNoWriMo worth doing? What I’ve learned from my successes and failures!

In the month of July, I signed up to Camp NaNoWriMo. My task? Finish my first draft.

I set a target of 30000 words. If I’d forced them out, it would have finished my draft. But disaster struck. I hit a wall with my plot. My ship beached itself. Something was missing.

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As a result, I spent a lot of the month fiddling with early chapters and adding a new character. I only managed 14000 words this time, half of my goal!

I’ve discovered a few things about my writing process during NaNoWriMo. Things that have made me question the 50k challenge. Is it worth it?

I love the community, but hate the stress of word counts:

NaNoWriMo is great for getting the words out and to challenge yourself to write as quickly as possible. The community of writers is amazing. There are #’s on Twitter, #NaNoWriMo and #CampNaNoWriMo, and groups who complete word sprints together.

Three times I’ve participated now: Last November, I wrote 65000 words. In April, I set a 50k target. I fell a few hundred words short. In July, I set a lower target because I knew it was a busy month. I even had a detailed plan: Preparing for NaNo: Tips

Tip: start a timer for a 15 minute writing sprint and mute the noise at the end. You’ll just keep writing and forget about the time! 

Castles

Did I meet my goal in July? No. Writing fast is stressful. Each NaNo, I’ve felt like I pushed myself too hard and rushed my writing without thinking it through. If I want to maintain quality, the best I can achieve is 1500 words in a 3 hour session. That brings me on to my next point…

My writing is better when I take my time:

Looking back at November and April’s work was an eye opener. Stilted dialogue, too many filler words, and far too much telling! (Mica’s Show vs. Tell series is an amazing guide!) My work wasn’t terrible. The essence of the story was there, but was it as good as July’s writing?

Not even close!

During my weekly short story blog posts, I’ve come to appreciate how much better my writing is when I write slowly and edit as I go. In July, I slowed down to 1500 words in a three hour session. My work was much higher quality than the 3000+ I wrote in November’s sessions!

Editing as I go is more efficient:

I didn’t edit a thing during NaNoWriMo November, or Camp in April. I just wrote. Now, I need to rewrite most of it anyway, so why not cut out the middle man and write slower, better, the first time around? I feel that, for me at least, this would streamline my drafting process, allow me to finish projects quicker, and get onto those other plot bunnies!

I set unrealistic targets:

I considered the coconut circumstances of July carefully, but not carefully enough.

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I loved Moana, so here’s a coconut for you to consider.

Birthdays, family visits, and a hospital appointment took time away from writing. Added to that, I got great news from the hospital: The lump in my brain is just a cyst, it won’t kill me! It’s been odd adjusting to my new found relief, and I’ve been slacking a bit since!

Anyway, when I set targets I’m pretty strict with them. I don’t plan for distractions, or time off. I need to be more realistic about how much I can write. 50000 words in a month is a huge commitment, better approached if you have lots of time!

Tip: Don’t overstretch yourself, or you’ll feel demoralised if you don’t meet your goal!

I may hang up my pants and become a plotter:

When I started Tales from Dragonspire, my plan was non-existent. My characters weren’t set in stone from day one: I added them as I wrote. 

One thing that threw me off my stride this NaNo was the addition of new character, Nick. Nick is Arckia’s best friend, and he adds depth to the beginning of my story. Only issue is, I’d written the beginning without him back in November!

Because of Nick, I spent a lot of time planning new scenes for older chapters. I planned chapter one again. Then I tossed it. Repeat. Chapter one got three new plans and a complete rewrite in July! This cut into my writing time, and less words were written.

I didn’t finish my first draft either. I still don’t have a concrete plan for one part of my story. It’s a travelling section, and I’m not sure what to do with it. My distracted brain would rather start the second draft than finish the first one! Anyone else do this, or am I just weird?

Maybe having a plan from the start would be more effective? Time to hang up the pants?

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In summary:

  • NaNoWriMo has a great community. It’s great for making friends and meeting other writers.
  • It’s a good way to get the basics of a story down.
  • Writing fast can be stressful, especially without a plan, and the quality can suffer.
  • NaNoWriMo is a time commitment. Expect to make sacrifices!
  • Planning is perhaps better during NaNoWriMo. Worth experimenting with!

Will I participate in NaNoWriMo again?

You’d think that, given the above realisations, my NaNo days would be over. Not so, my friends! The idea of planning has piqued my curiosity. Next NaNoWriMo, I’ll experiment. I want to see if planning improves my NaNo scribbles!

In October, ‘The Pantser Plots,’ will be a new feature on my blog. I’ll make a detailed plan for a new story, or Dragonspire Book 2. Then, I’ll chronicle my attempts at writing during November. I’m super excited to see if I write better as a planner or a pantser!

How about you? What are your experiences with NaNoWriMo? Did you participate and meet your goal during Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you a pantser or a planner? Let me know in the comments!

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15 responses to “Is NaNoWriMo worth doing? What I’ve learned from my successes and failures!

  1. I hope you have a splendid November writing month, writing your fantastico novel!
    How about me, you ask? Ummm, this year is going to be my first NANOWRIMO. I wanted to join Camp Nanowrimo but I joined in later than everybody else cause I was new and didn’t know how NANOWRIMO worked. Also to answer your question, i’m both a pantser and a planner. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I usually use October to plot my project for November: this includes research, detailed chapter notes, character sketches and making pretty story boards. This allows me to write a double NaNo in November (yes: 100k) which essentially is the first draft in a fantasy novel.

    I don’t edit as I go (it slows me down and allows anxiety to creep through). The point is to get the first draft down. I’ll do several revisions over the next couple of months (sometimes chapter one will take a month on its own to get right) before I feel the book is ready for beta readers. And then the rewriting starts again 😉 (Okay, rewriting of my series started again after having a revelation about the themes and characters during my last NaNo as I finished the first draft for the last book. *sniffing softly to hide tears*)

    During Camp in July I tried a different project: several short stories for an anthology. I only got the idea in the first week and pantsed my way through it. It didn’t go as well as expected. I’m currently rewriting the stories, trying to ignore my novel whining about being neglected 😉

    I definitely do better when properly preparing for a project 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I plan to use a similar method of plotting to what you’ve described to prepare for November. 100k is amazing, well done 🙂 I wonder if, with proper planning, I could get near that many words!

      I hope the rewriting of your series is going okay. Sometimes revelations can come at the worst time, the end of the first draft being one of the worst. I wish I’d realised I needed another character from the start, and not near the end of my first draft! Perhaps if I’d planned, it wouldn’t be an issue now!

      I find that, with short stories, I operate much better with a plan, especially flash fiction. Perhaps I’ll discover that, like you, I’ll do better when I plan a project 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate NaNoWriMo. I think it puts undo stress and pressure to produce something is a short amount of time to feel what it’s like to be a “professional” writer.

    Add in a day job, kids, and other obligations, and suddenly you’re putting your life on hold to reach some objective with little real merit.

    Yeah, you wrote 50,000 words. That’s not a full novel in most genres. And, how good is it? I already have to rewrite a lot, but how many more does it mean? How happy is your family at the end of the month? How supportive of your quest to be a paid writer? How happy are you?

    I don’t believe in stress for the sake of stress. I don’t need an artificial deadline to make me write.

    I shoot for 500 words a day, every day. Yes, it means it takes me more than 3 months to finish the same 50,000 words. Except most days, I do more than 500. But knowing I “only” have to do 500 makes it much easier for me to sit my bottom down and do them. It also means plenty of time for my other life obligations.

    I love writing. I would love for it to be my full time job. But NaNoWriMo is not for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can relate to NaNo being stressful, I felt so burnt out at the end of NaNoWriMo last year. Looking back at my work and having to rewrite most of it anyway, I’m not sure it was worth the stress, or how ignored I think my fiancee felt!

      I’m hoping that planning a project will make NaNo less stressful, but we shall see! If that doesn’t work, I’ll abandon the idea myself and cheer others on from the sidelines 🙂

      500 words a day is a great goal 🙂
      It’s good to have a target that feels achievable and fits in with your other commitments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never done NaNo, though I watch with interest each year. NaNo pace isn’t too different from my usual first drafting pace when I know what’s going to happen. The distinction is that I don’t usually draft solidly for a whole month, because I need to stop and figure out more plot details.

    I used to be a pantser, but I’m much more in the plotting camp now, and I’m never going back. I’m the opposite of you in that crappy first drafts work for me, but I think it’s great you’ve figured out the kind of writing that works for you. I look forward to hearing how your plotting goes! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just don’t think I can handle the pace of NaNo anymore, but I’ll see what plotting brings 🙂
      I think I’m leaning towards plotting more and more too. I’ve learned that I hate getting stuck and having to figure out plot as I go, it disrupts my flow!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I have about 5 books that I tried to pants, and they all died about 15k words when I finished writing the beginning I had in mind. Plotting helped me get to the end (and have it make sense, give or take).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: A warm welcome & updates schedule! | Dragonspire UK·

  6. Pingback: The Pantser Plots: A #NaNoWriMo experiment. Part 1… | Dragonspire UK·

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