What I Learned During NaNoWriMo 2015

December 9, 2015 miscellaneous, writing 6

November, or as some writers know it “that crazy month where you ditch life and try to write a book in four weeks”, has come and passed and selfless person that I am I’d like to share some insights with you (fun fact: I once wrote “insides” instead of “insights” in a university essay and didn’t catch it while proof reading, so now I’m always worried it’ll happen again and people will think I want to share my innards with them – I do not).

So first things first: I didn’t win. It pains me to admit it, but since I so cockily declared that I Bet I Can Write a Book, I figured I should share my failure with you and explain to you why it wasn’t actually a failure. HOW CONVENIENT, you might think and you would be completely right, but keep an open mind. Generally, I mean, not in relation to my fake failure, you may judge me on that all you want. It never hurts to keep an open mind, does it? Look at Aberforth and his goats – some might wonder why JK Rowling chose to include bestiality in her books, but never explicitly mentioned Dumbledore was gay in the text, but to those people I say keep an open mind; maybe Aberforth loved his goats more than Dumbledore loved Grindelwald and clearly love is more important than taking over the world is what I say to deflect attention from my devious plan of taking over the world (fun fact number two: Sometimes I wonder whether what I’m writing is inappropriate or only makes sense to 0.2 out of a hundred people. That’s usually the stuff that I keep).

Before I grace you irritate you with more weird Harry Potter humor, let’s take a look at the things my first NaNoWriMo experience taught me!

Being Consistent Works

Writing a little every day actually amounts to a lot of words eventually. SHOCKING, I KNOW. This is something that you technically already know, but you need to experience it to actually get it into your head. I did NaNo for two weeks, writing 5k on some days and not at all on others, and I ended up with 20.000 words. Usually that number would have seemed incredibly intimidating to me, but I realized that if I actually kept going, I’d be able to cross the 50.000 mark. I stopped, because I was neglecting university too much (I still am, but psssht) and I wasn’t in a great place mentally for a while there, but I internalized that doing a little every day is good advice for writing as much as anything else in life.

Stats Are My Friends

I am deeply upset that I can’t keep updating my NaNo wordcount graph on the page until I get to 50k, because it was super inspiring to see those bars rising (literally, not metaphorically – I like my metaphorical bars low and easy, like your mum last night (see fun fact number two)) and find out how much I need to write to keep up. I LOVE the stats function on the NaNo page, and I love daily wordcounts that are manageable and just yes, please, all the stats.

Scrivener Is Awesome

I used to write in Libre Office, because Word is frickin’ expensive, but also because I didn’t know there were such cool other programs out there. I downloaded the NaNoWriMo trial of Scrivener the day before NaNo started and spent a few hours getting to know the program. I love it! Instead of having to open several docs and going back and forth between them, I can just open them all in one Scrivener project and it’s super easy to divide everything into chapters. You can really see how it was designed with writers of all kinds in mind, and I am definitely going to continue using it. I won’t get the 50% discount for NaNo winners, but NaNo participants still get 20%, so I’ll buy it soon. If you’re a writer, download the free trial version I linked and test it out – it’ll be worth it! I think my favorite feature is that you can set a target word count goal for the entire project and mini targets for each sitting. If you open the target, it’ll show your word count as a bar that slowly fills up and goes from red to green as you write more words. It’s like a mini game every time you write! I’m pretty sure that function was responsible for me hitting my goals during the first two weeks.

Writing Buddies Are Essential

The only times I’ve ever been successful in my writing endeavors was when a) I was writing something specifically for someone or b) I was in an (online) environment of people who were also writing. If I feel like I’m the only one writing I’ll just get demotivated and stop. I need to see that other people are writing too to stay enthused and keep going. I wish that I had more writer friends who’d guilt me into writing write with me outside of NaNoWriMo, but this definitely helped to find some other writers. I used to like word wars back when chatrooms were still a thing, but I’m not finding them really convenient on twitter and I’m also a slow writer so it’s a bit difficult to find someone compatible (call me insecure, but I’m not a fan of having to say I wrote 200 words when I see someone else wrote 1500 in the same time).

It’s Possible to Write a Book …Probably

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but at the same time it was always this impossible feat to me that I could never accomplish. Doing NaNoWriMo helped me to realize that that is all in my head and of course it’s possible. I mean I didn’t write one, but a lot of other people did, so it must be doable, right? It all comes back to the very first point on this list: if you work consistently, you’ll have a finished product at the end.

You Don’t Have to Throw Yourself Off the Stairs!

Let me elaborate. I heard this metaphor once in a different context when someone asked if you’d throw yourself down the stairs only because you stumbled on a step. I’m adapting this to NaNoWriMo to mean that just because I didn’t write 50.000 words in a month doesn’t mean I should just stop and give up. You know what the goal of NaNoWriMo is? To form a habit of writing consistently and to write some fucking words. You know what I did? I wrote some fucking words. 20.000 of them that I didn’t have before November. I think that’s something to be proud of.

So how did you do if you did NaNo? Did you write 50k? Did you finish your book? How do you stay motivated during the non-NaNo times?

6 Responses to “What I Learned During NaNoWriMo 2015”

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    This is a mildly wonderful post…and I appreciate your Harry Potter humour!! Even if I am a HP newbie and know…barely…anything. *ahem* (I’m working on it, okay?! Bk 7 is on reserve at the library!!) And I still want to say CONGRATS AN INTENSE AMOUNT FOR 20K. But no matter what it’s still something. Once upon a time I would’ve called that an entire book. Hm, let’s pause a moment and pity Little-Cait’s intentions. Ahem. Moving forward.
    I 100% agree about Scrivener!! My relative bought a bundle of apps and stuff and got Scrivener in with it and HE GAVE IT TO ME FOR FREEEEE. (Granted I babysit his kids like, erm, all. the. time. for. free. So it kind of evens out.) :’) Anyway. Best writing decision ever. I adore how you can have the corkboard and then write brief summaries of the chapters. AND how all your research and things can be in one place. It is glorious. I’ve wasted 5 years of my writing life without it. xD
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…Authors I’ve Discovered in 2015 And I Intended To Be A Mild Fan, But What The Heck…I Am Entirely Consumed By Their Glorious BooksMy Profile

    • Vlora


      But you get to read it for the first time, so that’s pretty awesome! I can’t wait for your review of book 7! Thank you! I keep wanting to keep going, but then I remember I have no plot and 43u5329ß4uß9213u pages to write for university (yes, that is a legitimate number), so I don’t. Instead I keep writing down ideas for another book I want to write, but have no real plot for yet either. That is totally how it’s done, right? Okay, great, I was getting worried.

      One of your posts prompted me to download Scrivener, so thanks again! And it’s awesome that you got it for free although to be honest if I babysat for someone for free all the time I would basically consider them indebted to me forever.
      Vlora recently posted…What I Learned During NaNoWriMo 2015My Profile

  2. Alyssa

    That is an interesting point about Aberforth and a fabulous gif but I shall just ignore these momentarily. But hey, 20K is perfectly respectable! I only wrote 26-27ishK (some of it was on paper, haha) and I still pounded out a complete if sparse draft, so what does it really matter?

    If you enjoy stats, you might want to check out myWriteClub? It’s not super fancy, but it’s super great for figuring out your writing goals and deadlines. I haven’t tried Scrivener myself, because I’m perfectly happy with Pages for drafting and Keynote for outlining. Writing buddies are so important! Screaming on Twitter helps (even if it occasionally veers into procrastination) a LOT.
    Alyssa recently posted…Unpopular Opinions and ABBA Book TagsMy Profile

    • Vlora


      Congrats on getting a complete draft done! Yeah, 20k is definitely better than no k! :D Thanks for the rec! And yeah, I definitely scream on twitter when I’m writing haha

  3. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    LOVE. So much love. This is so, so accurate. I agree with you- the stats and goals were HUGE for me. And like, milestones and the stupid badges made me push on when I would have otherwise called it a night- like “if I write a thousand more words, NaNo will email me and tell me I have a shiny badge!” or “I cannot stop at 19K, that number is WRONG, I need 20!”, so it works well for those of us with mental problems ;)

    So, 20K is AMAZING. Amazing! Did I tell you about last year when I wrote 400 words? (Well, 1200, but then deleted 800.) Yeah. You should be SO proud of yourself. 50K is really so arbitrary, because let’s face it, no one’s novel is ever complete at 50K anyway. You’re right, it’s a fabulous way to get into the habit! Of course, for me, it was more of a “I am going to finish this mofo and then not write another word for a month, at least”, so we’ll see how that goes. I kind of need this Scrivener thing in my life, but I am really afraid to see how much it costs.

    Anyway, I am so proud of you and your accomplishment!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted…This Week At Midnight (91)My Profile

    • Vlora


      You did haha, it’s motivating in the sense that I see your wordcount this year and it makes me hopeful for my own next year. :D Yeah, it’s a bit daunting that the book probably won’t even be finished after 50k, but on the other hand 50k is A LOT of words. Hahaha well yeah, there is that. If you’ve been writing that much it’s VERY tempting to take a break. I’ve been lacking in motivation since NaNo stopped. I’ll definitely be participating in Camp NaNo next year though. Scrivener actually isn’t THAT expensive. Like, 3-4 hardcovers expensive. I thought it would be a lot more, but I think it’s actually a fairly decent price for what you get!

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