What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo 2017

Almost everything in life is a learning experience and NaNoWriMo has been just that. This year I have learned a lot undertaking the challenge of writing a 50,000 word first draft of a brand-new novel in 30 days.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learned thanks to NaNoWriMo 2017:I love to write. I guess really what I realised is that I still love to write. This was ultimately the most important thing I took away from this month. I’ve always loved writing but getting bogged down in edits and re-writes of my first book had me questioning just how much I wanted to be a writer. Thankfully some pure, unadulterated writing without any worries of editing have cured me of any doubt.

  1. It’s perfectly acceptable to readjust your goals. About half way through it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to reach 50,000 words – there just wasn’t enough time in the day. I’ll admit my initial response to this realisation may have been to throw in the towel and call quits on the whole thing but then I took my own advice – from the blog post I wrote before I started – and figured something is better than nothing and so I changed my aim from 50,000 down to 20,000 words. A goal that still had me writing furiously but a whole lot more achievable.
  2. It is possible to fit in writing time every single day. Yup, I was surprised too but it’s true. I wrote every day, all of them – for the entire month. Some days I wrote more than others but still not a day went by that I didn’t open the laptop and knock out a few words. Granted there were days that the number didn’t even approach three figures but everyday writing is about consistency as opposed to quantity and now I’ve realised that I can – I will! Hopefully.
  3. I love having absolutely no idea where the story is going. I always thought of myself as a plotter when it came to novel writing, and perhaps I’ll revert to my previous ways after this, but writing a story with absolutely no clue where it was going gave me a thrill similar to reading a new book. This month I would find myself disappearing into the fictional world I was creating and wondering what was going to happen next in the story while emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes. By the time I’d get to my laptop I would be genuinely excited to find out if what I planned would pan out or not – and that leads me to the next thing I learned…
  4. Novels and characters can take on a life of their own. Your characters may choose routes you may not have planned for them or even make choices you don’t want them to make. I’ve often heard writers say this about their stories but after a first book that I plotted – to within an inch of its life – I just couldn’t imagine my characters not doing as they were told. My first book had a very detailed plan with a specific end point and my characters were going to get to that place in the exact manner I had laid out for them. It was that simple and I had allowed very little wriggle room for detours. In this story, however, I had no idea where it was going, never mind how it was going to get there and my lead character continued to surprise me all the way through – right to the very end of the 20,000 words.

Next year I hope to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge again and hopefully, finally, reach the 50k target. Until then I better get back to finishing this story – I can’t wait to see how it ends!

One thought on “What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo 2017

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  1. I’m the opposite. I’ve never plotted anything out and usually see what happens. This writing got long enough that I started needing some kind of plan – whether I’d follow it to the end or not.


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