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  • Writer's pictureJames Cullen

7 Things I Learned from National Novel Writing Month #nanowrimo

#NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. Great. What is that? In brief, National Novel Writing Month, #NaNoWriMo, or Nano, is an initiative in which thousands of people across the globe all embark on an agonizing, gut-wrenching journey to write 50,000 words of a novel every November. That's 1667 words per day to hit the target.

For the past two years, I've put myself through #NaNoWriMo. Why? Because while it's a daunting proposition and a lot of work on top of other commitments, the catharsis at the end - and during writing - is worth the occasional writer's breakdown. As a copywriter, writing fiction from time to time can help sharpen the copy and expand the...what's the word for it...the thing where you know many words...

Here's the 7 Things I Learned from #NaNoWriMo:

7. Community Spirit is Key to Writing

Writing is for the most part a solo pursuit. The words on the page trickle down directly from your brain. It's not really a group activity. And sometimes this fact can make being a writer feel like you're alone after an apocalypse, or stranded at sea with only the gentle sound of the sharks gathering to eat you to keep you company. But other times, when there's a community of #NaNoWriMo like-minded kindred spirits alongside you that can give you the push past the blockade on your race to the finish line. Having other writers to talk to, share ideas with and show you that you're not alone in the big wide ocean, can be like seeing land on the horizon.

6. Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

People don't call writing a discipline for no reason. If you were to wait for inspiration to strike, you may write the odd paragraph every few days. In order to get the novel finished, which is the end goal, you should be writing every day. Sometimes this seems like the last thing you want to do. It doesn't make you any less of a writer to say sometimes you don't feel like writing. #NaNoWriMo forces you to become a disciplinarian by writing 1667 words per day. Skipping just one day can really hamper your goals and the word count per day can creep up and up. So its crucial to stay on top of it and get those 1667 words down.

5. The Perfect Cure for Writer's Block

Having to write a certain amount of words often results in the last few hundred being phoned in. But sometimes the best way to get your head past a tricky part of the story is to write down something terrible. You have a starting point on how to fix it. You at least know that those characters wouldn't do that.

4. Don't Get It Right, Get It Written

The tinker is the worst kind of writer. Days can be eaten away by the decision of where to place a colon or what colour the curtains should be. #NaNoWriMo allows you to get past that and to focus on getting the words down first and foremost. The nitty-gritty can be edited i the editing phase by a actual editor. You're the writer, it's supposed to be messy - at least in a first draft.

3. Am I Really a Writer?

Writing for some is a passion, others a hobby, and for those lucky few, a job. If writing 1667 words a day still daunts you after the first few days, and if seeing completed chapters rack up and the word count soar doesn't give you a feeling of elation, then maybe you'll see that writing as a profession isn't something you can do. There's nothing wrong with that. Writing for a living is different to writing for fun. If writing for fun stop beings fun, it's not going to improve with the pressure of responsibility added to it. #NaNoWriMo can help ascertain how far you want to go with a writing career.

2. Instant Gratification - A Rarity for a Writer

As a writer, gratification rarely serves itself up on a plate. Perhaps the first reader may offer encouraging words, but you will be alone with what you've written for a long time before you begin to reap the dividends of creating prose. #NaNoWriMo offers instant gratification in the form of counting the words. While quality is vastly superior to quantity, there's bound to be some stellar starting points in your 1667 words per day. Completing the words each day, and even surpassing them, can give immense gratification and keep you on the wagon to success.

1. The Writer's Mindset

The most important lesson from #NaNoWriMo is hands-down the mindset it forces you to adopt. Every day you have to churn out nearly 2000 words. Unless you have planned to a tee and then followed that plan religiously, you will hit a point where you'll need new ideas. New characters will pop up, new scenarios will be needed to drive the story. Each day you'll have to delve into your imagination and turn those sparks of thought into pixels on the screen. The mindset of the creator is probably the most valuable tool you can develop from doing #NaNoWriMo, and is something that stays with you long after November has ended.

Have you done #NaNoWriMo? If so, how did you find it?

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