I Won NaNoWriMo and Revolutionized my Writing

 Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM
Dec 022013
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40s woman writing~ I Won NaNoWriMo and Revolutionized my Writing ~

This year a gal in my writer’s group convinced me to sign up for the NaNoWriMo ( National Novel Writing Month). I had originally said NO, with good reason. I was working on a compilation of ghost stories, still querying my novel and thinking of a “tense” rewrite, my son had the lead in a the regional theatre play  (which included running line, making costumes, taxiing to rehearsals) , my daughter had her usual, voice, tumbling, and football games, I had this website, as well as a monthly tea party group and book club. And did I mention at the beginning of the month the Steampunk Vaudeville Variety show I directed was debuting. There was NO WAY I could see being able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Just Do It

I have no idea what changed my mind about doing NaNoWriMo, maybe it was the competitive nature in me trying to keep up with the gal in my writing group,  or maybe it was all the internet advice about writing ANOTHER novel while querying your first, or maybe….I was (am) nuts.  Whatever the reason was, I signed up. I had two solid ideas for NaNoWriMo, one was an extended ghost story idea which wasn’t completely fleshed out, I had some characters, some basic plot ideas, but no outline. The other was my sequel idea for The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress. I’d been stewing on that one for a year, but hadn’t put anything to paper except a few plot problems and new scene locations. I got feedback from both sides, “do something completely different in case no one likes the first novel,” “do a sequel, agents and publishers love sequels.” The sequel idea won out, by the sheer fact I wanted to disappear into my swing world again.

What I Should Have Done but Didn’t1940s women get it done

I should have written a proper outline, character reference and prepared more, but I was sucked in by so many other authors who said how much they liked to “fly by the seat of their pants.” Although the novel did take some creative turns which were amazing gifts of the universe, it was painful and made my journey a little more difficult than it could have been.

Tip 1 PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. It’s not impossible to win NaNoWriMo and not prepare, I’m living proof, but its so much more difficult

Tip 2 If your a pantser ignore tip one

Tip 3 Don’t try to be something you’re not. I’m not a pantser (but I didn’t figure that out until I did NaNoWriMo with no outline)

1940s car crash off bridgeEverything That can go Wrong Will go Wrong

So, not only is NaNo in November, Turkey Day month which I’m a huge home cooker and baker (no store bought pies or store bought ready made crust, no stove top stuffing, no cookie or bread mix, no…well you get the idea), but no sooner did I get on a roll with my 1,700 plus words a day, but my sister called. My mom’s brain tumor was back and she’d fallen and broken her arm and could I fly out and stay with my mom in the hospital for a week while she got her bearings. “Sure,” I said, “I can continue to write in the airport, the airplane and nursing home room, I can still do this.” This might have worked if I wasn’t completely freaky paranoid about flying (even with Xanax and alcohol I have an anxiety level which leaves my head feeling like my brain is oozing out my ear and my heart is galloping through every part of my body). That coupled with my mom’s need to talk almost every moment she was awake left me a week behind on my NaNo.

Tip 4 Don’t plan on having 30 days

Tip 5 Cushion, Cushion, Cushion, don’t just hit your daily goal, push for more, you might and mostly likely WILL need it

Never Surrender

There was a point when my Sister was driving me to the airport when I thought, “Okay, that’s it, I tried, I didn’t get to write this entire week, I won’t make it. I can try again next year with the other novel idea. I can still continue with this, but I’m not going to make it. It’s just impossible.”

Then something clicked, some reserve, some competitive gene took over and I wrote like my fingers were on fire and the only way to put them out was to reach 50,000. I pushed myself beyond limits I didn’t know I could. This was the real gem of  NaNo. I’d finished a novel before, I knew I could write an entire book, but it had taken me a year. Usually when I finished a chapter or scene I would stop. I would say, “that’s enough for tonight.” Pushing to reach my NaNo goal, I couldn’t stop. I would finish a chapter and instead of stopping for the night, I would push on to the next.  This was a revolution! NaNo taught me I could expect much more from myself that I EVER thought possible.

Tip 6 Write past your limit and then write some more

Tip 7 Try to increase you word count EVERY day

Tip 8 Have writing buddies, watch their count go up, friendly competition is good, (you’re not competing against each other, you’re competing WITH each other)

1940s tired ladySomething’s Got to Give

I pushed myself to make up the lost week. I stayed up too late at night until not only my prescription glasses blurred, but every pair of reader magnifying glasses blended my typed words into Rorschach ink blots.

I wrote on my lunch break at work. I wrote in the carpool lane with my laptop balanced between my steering wheel and lap. I let the kids eat cereal for dinner or apple sauce and Hot Fries. I hadn’t dusted all month and the last roll of toilet paper circumnavigated the house from bathroom to bathroom. I wanted to finish BEFORE Thanksgiving. I did, but I was so exhausted I didn’t cook after all, (we barbecued and I did make ONE home made apple pie, a relish tray and banana nut bread–yes I AM nuts).

The other downside was, I felt my writing was sloppy, even for a first draft. There were times when I didn’t write enough, I didn’t convey the scene or emotions that were needed. I felt the pressure of rushing ahead. Other times I  rambled or padded, over-describing a scene or character.

Tip 9 There will be times when you CANNOT do it all in one day, it’s okay to not shave your legs

Tip 10 You’re family or friends or significant other still need you, BALANCE your time, NaNo teaches you time management (if you pay attention)

Tip 11 No matter what: any writing is better than NO writing

Did you try NaNoWriMo? Share your experiences and what you learned. Did you like it? Would you do it again? Did NaNoWriMo make you a better writer?

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page



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  9 Responses to “I Won NaNoWriMo and Revolutionized my Writing”

Comments (9)
  1. I’ve taken part in NaNo every year for the past four years. Every November I finish, think to myself ‘Wow, I should have planned that better, I’ll do that next year,’ then the whole year slips away and before I know it I’m back, writing without a plan again! I think that’s just NaNo style ;) definitely fun though, pushing your boundaries :)

    • Beth, great to hear your experience. I’m planning of doing it again this year, but with a loose outline. I’m excited about it. I’m just finishing the novel from last years NaNo. I had put it aside for months without even looking at it. Best of luck on your venture this year :)

  2. Thanks right back atcha :) was so encouraging knowing someone was keeping up with where I was at and cheering me on!!! Had no idea so many people fell by the wayside, but can totally see how hard it is to get to the end – and there’s always next year!!!

  3. Amazing debrief :) so familiar!!!! Tip 11 – soooo true… I’m so glad we stuck with it whatever the weather – Everything that can go wrong will go wrong totally got me – but here we are with something to be proud of and something to show for it!!! Congrats :) xxx

    • Sara, I know you can relate. I’m so proud of us to have had so many setbacks and still accomplished our goal. I don’t know why, but I was even more thrilled to know that I was one of 41,000 out of the 300,000+ I hope it was not discouraging for them. To be honest, I’ve learned so much about myself and about writing in the last year I’m not sure I could have done this a years ago :) Thanks for reading the post and commenting and being a GREAT writing buddy on NaNo!

  4. What a fun read that was, Tammy! And Tip #9 was the BEST–I think I might have snorted when I read it! Congratulations on making it, and enjoy the baking in December!

    • Glad I could make you snort ;) LOL. It was a very interesting journey. I’m still undecided if I would do it again, but I LOVED how much I learned about writing, self discipline and my own psyche.

  5. Way to go, Tammy! And you’ve even blogged about it! Now you’ve got a rough draft you can polish and submit. We’re very proud of you. (Now, go back and get that ghost story collection done so you can sit in with the rest of us next April and sell it.)

    • Thanks, One more ghost story to go through the writer’s group and maybe one more original to write for the collection. You know you’ve been an inspiration!

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