NaNoWriMo 2018 Reflection and Lessons Learned

It’s been two years since I wrote one of these. Ironically, the last time was in 2016 and it was for the same piece that I expanded this year. To summarize, it was a high fantasy (that turned very dark, maybe into Grimdark status) that is a mix of Dragon Age and A Game of Thrones.

Every year is a different experience. This year was stressful for several reasons, but just like the previous efforts, I learned so much about my writing process and my story. Now that I’m done zoning out on historical period dramas and the “Great British Baking Show,” here are the highlights of this year’s NaNo experience:

Improvements in my writing:

My writing has changed a lot in the past few years. I still have things I need to work on and struggle with, and I really came to terms with that during this manuscript. For this last NaNoWriMo, there were still moments where the writing was beautiful or a certain part of the plot was action-packed, but I recognize that the progress I see now wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t written the other projects first. The problem with the first book drafts I’ve ever written is that I’ve looked at them so many times, I have problems seeing the issues. I know they’re there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Now when I write this story, I know the parts where I tell vs. show much more than I should. I know when I spend too much time on the internal thoughts of the character and mess with the pacing. Realizing all of this makes it so much easier to go back and fix my mistakes during revisions, and I’m actually looking forward to it.

I can manage my time and be productive in an efficient manner, even if I’m ridiculously busy.

As tempting as it is, my advice is to NOT ADOPT A PUPPY DURING NANOWRIMO (this should be obvious right?). I love my new dog, Ellie, but she demands a lot of my attention and it’s her right to. She is only ten months old. And I love her for it. Her addition to the family was good for my time management. It forced me to write while she napped or chewed on her kong toy. I couldn’t waste any of my words or spend minutes to hours scrolling the internet and social media.

 

For some reason, November is always one of the busiest times of the year for me. Even during Thanksgiving week, my time off is limited because the other time is spent with family or cooking.

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 11.00.57 AM
My variable writing pace this month

As you can see, there were several days where I was way too busy to write, and that’s okay! I’m not a fan of the advice ‘you must write every single day or else you’re not a real, committed writer.’  Sometimes life gets in the way and makes it impossible to write. I learned that even during busy times, I must take advantage of every word I write and can’t beat myself up if I’m too busy or need to take time for self-care.

I don’t have to push myself to finish.

The only reason why I finished this year is that I’m stubborn and competitive to myself. Honestly, I can’t see myself doing NaNo next year despite winning for the past four years. I don’t want to limit myself to drafting a book within a month and it’s not the healthiest way to go about it. My writing suffers from rushing it out, and I have many other plot bunnies and revision goals that I want to work on at this time of the year. For some reason, every single year (even when I’m not adopting a pet) November is busy. I’m really not sure why, but I would love one Thanksgiving and November to not have the looming pressure, that I put on myself, to complete or finish a book.

Now what?

Post NaNoWriMo is difficult in its own way. I’m itching to get immediately back into the story, but I know that it’s better for me and for my work in progress to take a break and come back swinging in a few weeks.

I need about a week or two to complete all of the chores that I have ignored, to spend time and go to training sessions with my puppy, and prepare for the holidays. Reviewing beta reader comments for my other book is also an important goal for this month so I can decide and prioritize which revisions and rewrites I need to make in 2019.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy more historical period dramas and play some Kingdom Hearts to prepare for installment number three in January. But as you can see with this blog post, the urge to not write will not last very long. 😉

What did you all learn during NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know and discuss in the comments!

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