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NaNo-Sized Lessons

My brain has slightly recovered from a month of Nano insanity. Slightly.

This past month, and actually the month preceding it, have done huge things for my writing adventures. NaNoWriMo has been an invaluable experience, in which I’ve learned many new things and have also been reminded of important things I knew but had forgotten. Obviously these are personal to my own process, but if they help anyone, I’m happy to share!

1. I need a long and very involved discovery phase.

Some people can think a few ideas up and go outline them. That’s not me. I have found that I need a long time to think and mull and research and experiment. It does not come quickly for me. I really think if I went through this whole phase and came out with a completed outline (instead of the partial one I had during Nano), that I would enjoy the writing so much more and that I might actually be more productive because I wouldn’t be solving huge issues on the fly.

2. I have to write about writing in order to write.

I thought I was strange for this until I discovered that many other writers do the same thing. No one really knows how to explain it, so we all just think we’re odd. I have a journaling document that accompanies my project file. During the discovery phase, I type every crazy thought into that document. I talk/write to myself to figure out the plot. I say what I’d like to happen and why. These conversations with myself seem to be essential to my process. I end up with thousands of words that might be useless as words, but the ideas that come from them are the backbone of my story.

3. I need a set time to write.

If I just sit down to write with 6 free hours, I will undoubtedly stare into space (and not in the productive way) for 4 hours and 49 minutes and then realize that the page is still blank. Now I only have an hour left to do something, ANYTHING to make the past 5 hours of staring worthwhile. If I give myself 1 hour to write and have no idea what I’m working on, I can come up with about 800 to 1,000 words. If I know beforehand what I’m going to work on in that same hour, I can get anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 words.

I put aside an hour at lunch and an hour in the evening for Nano and had no issue getting out 2,000 words a day except for the days when I really didn’t know what I was doing story-wise. It seems that I am more productive if I give myself LESS time to write because I won’t waste it.

4. I love twitter sprints and the community that comes with them!

I would not have made it to 50K if it were not for a boatload of twitter sprints. The standing daily sprint each weekday with the ROW80 crowd was amazing. In addition to that, I sprinted in the evening and on weekends with local Wrimos, some of the MyWana crew, and more ROWers. There were so many participants throughout the month that provided motivation and encouragement. I thank you all!! This may sound strange, but I almost don’t want to write any other way. I looked forward to the time I had set aside each day and loved having good company! Communal writing is for me! :D

5. When stuck, just skip around.

Because huge pieces of my plot were either hazy or missing completely, there were times I was stuck but still needed to make the word count for that day. I moved forward into the story to a part I did know and worked on that. I really enjoyed skipping around. It kept up the forward momentum, didn’t allow me to mentally cripple myself into putting it away, and sometimes even solved the earlier problem that I was having to being with.

6. If I have headphones, I can write anywhere.

This past month, I’ve written at work, at home, in a cafe, a library, and my car. I wrote through vacuuming, screaming children, and some of my favorite movies/tv shows being played all of 20 feet from me. I even wrote while sitting at the same table with friends having a very heated political debate! :D All I need is headphones to drown out the sound, and I’m good. I found that I actually prefer to be amongst people while working. There’s some sort of secret pleasure in being immersed in my world that no one else knows about quite yet.

I’m sure there are more things I’ve learned, but those are the ones that stand out at the moment. I feel like doing Nano has changed a lot of things. I am definitely a Wrimo for life! As far as goals for the rest of this round, I’m still a little bit frazzled. A couple HUGE life things happened in November that I chose to ignore as to not get distracted from Nano. So this week, I’m going to relax, reorganize, and come up with new goals. I should have something posted either Wednesday or Sunday.

For the ROWers, I drudged up some frantic, funny, and inspiring moments from our twitter feeds from the past month for your post-Nano enjoyment:

Oh no, SINUS HEADACHE, I do not have time for you today #nanowrimo
Lauren Garafalo

@ Bah, 433. Started late; almost burned lunch while trying to write and put away groceries. :p #row80
Lena Corazon

Why am I awake at 4 AM thinking about villains? #nanowrimo
Lauren Garafalo

[NaNoWrimo] Well, she’s unconscious now. That’s awesome*.: *Once again more banter from a Write In. Write Ins ar…
RK Bentley

Every time I go to sleep I wake up and you have sprint cheated on me @ !!Brilliant total word count! See you tonight/at lunch!

@ @ I have 1,184! I am falling in love with my detective!!!

I’m writing my textiles teacher into my #nanowrimo cos she asked me to. Think she’ll mind if I kill her? It’s nothing personal

@ I have 1,490…stopped about 5 minutes ago because I seem to have lost a chapter…..can you undo on scriverner? back arrow?

@ LOL, I love Twitter!!! I have like 10 tons of advice for you now HAHAHA
Lauren Garafalo

No #nano writing before work today..too many things to do for work before work.How does that work?Surely work should be confined to work?

As soon as Scrivener stops giving me RAINBOW WHEEL OF DEATH, I will sprint. Grr. #row80 #technologyihateit
Lena Corazon

Eight minutes in and I’m still staring at the cursor #Row80 #wordsprint #fail

@ I now run around at parties and quote random filming facts to seem nerdy cool. :p
Lena Corazon

@ Good pick. I LOVE that soundtrack (tho I once listened to it before bed and had weird dreams of making out w/ Jeff Bridges)
Lena Corazon

@ I don’t want to worry you but I think you are actually turning in to me!! You know how I love a biscuit!

#ROW80 Sprint Just typed two sweet words for the Nano project. “The End.” at 50339. Stopping the sprint here as well. Thanks all :)
Gene Lempp

758 to go…..must. keep. crawling. #nanowrimo

@ 50,006 all validated…I have won!!! I am pleased! and tired! How are you doing?

Hello, hello, hello 50k. Sure is nice to meet you… #nanowrimo
Lena Corazon

@ *goesoffmutteringtoself* Fine. You win. Laptop on, this is going to be painful! :-)
Helen Jackson

@ Awesome, Kerry! Welcome to the purple bar club ROWbro :) #ROW80 #nanowrimo
Gene Lempp

Guess who just hit 50k words on her #NaNoWriMo project! *waves arms overhead frantically* #Row80 #amwriting

Hope you enjoyed!! :D Have any favorite Nano moments of your own? Thanks again for all the support over the last month!! Check out all the wonderful ROW80 updates HERE!


  1. LOL. Love the lessons learned. Have a good week!

  2. I LOVE the lessons!!! These tweets are hilarious. And you are invited to sprint with me anytime. :-)

  3. What an awesome post. I have to agree with each lesson you listed. I don’t know what it is about NaNo that lets me ignore my own rules for a month. If I could do that all the time, I would have many, many more books out. Thank you for sharing, and I hope to see the sprints still happening. They were amazingly awesome :)

  4. Awesome assemblage, Lauren! The sprints were the highlights of my NaNo days and I would have struggled to hit 50k without them to keep me focused. By the way, I write to myself about the project as well -> most writers call this “talking to my muse” :)

    Development, Writing, Revision; every writer has one they are strong at and one they aren’t. Sounds like Dev is the tough one for you. Structure is good, structure keeps one on track, structure makes Dev waaaayy easier.

    Have a great week, Lauren :)

  5. I’m glad you learned some things about your writing during NaNo ;) Now you can try and apply them!
    See you on twitter!
    Have a nice week ;)

  6. Congratulations fellow Wrimo! And thanks for the funny “twritterisms.” <- I spent a good 2 minutes on that word. It's still early for me. lol :)

  7. I sound like such a weirdo!!!! I forgot so many of those moments….sprint cheating! So good to see a month of madness compiled!!! I loved reading your lessons learned….working on mine for wednesday (working on as in scribled notes on post its!). Was a great experience…..can’t wait till next year!!!

  8. That’s awesome. Thanks for posting – reminds me what a great month we had…

  9. interesting lessons from nano – what are these sprints – not at all sure i can figure how they would work? do you just keep reporting in over a set period or do you set a number of words to acheive – have a count down clock ticking – please someone can you explain- they sound such fun when I read about them.

    anyways all the best for this week

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