earlier, this year I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I challenged myself to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Yesterday I completed my novel, the longest piece of writing I have achieved!
I learned a lot from this experience, both about myself as a writer and about the novel I was trying to write. Here are some of my conclusions, and I hope writers reading this will be able to apply some of them to their own writing.
First of all, I found it quite easy to write. I think I approached this project after years of having wanted to write, and having finally committed myself to do it, I removed my internal resistance and inhibitions. Reaching the daily word count was quite easy, and I managed to avoid writers' block.
An important part of my success was due to my awareness that this novel did not have to be perfect. In fact, I consider it a first draft of a practice novel. I knew from the beginning that it would need a lot of editing and revision, and that allowed me to write without worrying too much. I may spend as much time, or more on rewriting it later as I spent writing it this month. The achievement here is just getting the story written. It is now out on the computer, not locked in my head.
I learned the importance of writing every day. I wrote every single day from November 1 to November 29, apart from one day when I was away at a conference. I knew I would be going away, so I wrote a bit more before then and got my word count high enough so it wasn't difficult to catch up afterwards.
The story I wrote was based on ideas and characters that I had been thinking about for a long time. Of course, once I started writing, the emphasis changed, new ideas emerged, and the end result is not quite what I was expecting. It felt good to have these inspired moments when new plot twists and turns emerged.
In the future, I think it would be better for me to prepare an outline and decide where the story is going in advance, and how to pace the various events. Some writers like the control that comes from having an outline, while others like discovering things as they go along. I want to try outlining and see if that makes it easier for me.
Throughout my writing experience, I thought several times how much easier it would be for me to write non-fiction. I have always wanted to tell stories, but I also enjoy writing factual or educational pieces. This blog is currently my main outlet for writing non-fiction. It is interesting to consider the differences between fiction and non-fiction. In fiction, the author's imagination creates everything that happens. Non-fiction is mainly an attempt to describe some aspect of reality in a clear and entertaining or educational fashion.
In terms of writing skills, I feel I need to work more on the principle of "show, don't tell", to improve my dialogue and descriptions, and to structure the story so it is better paced and everything leads up to the conclusion. Much of this can be done during the editing stage.
I intend to put the novel I have just finished aside for a few weeks, and then return to it and read it with fresh eyes. I will then rewrite it and see how much I can improve it. It may turn into a rather different work.
I plan to continue my newly acquired habit of writing every day. My next project is a non-fiction work, and I will be able to compare these writing experiences.
To all writers, whether or not you have taken the NaNoWriMo challenge, I strongly recommend writing every day. Let it become a daily habit. Sometimes what you write will be good, sometimes not so good, but at least you are practicing.