NaNoWriMo 2015 - My Experience and Thoughts

Sunday, December 06, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 Daisies and Delights

If you aren't aware, November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Online, thousands of people attempt to write a novel in only 30 days, which is a lot harder than it sounds. The aim is to write 50,000 words, which averages at around 200 pages of a book. I've always wanted to write my own novel, so I decided to partake in this event and try my hardest to reach the goal. Although I didn't quite make it, I thought that it still may be beneficial to share my experiences and thoughts on the event, as it may help any of you who are considering taking part next year.


When I was preparing for a creative writing assessment in school, I stumbled upon a website filled with ideas for NaNoWriMo stories. Intrigued by what it entailed, I decided to research into the event to find out what you had to do. As soon as I realised that it was a whole month dedicated to writing a novel, I was sold. I love both reading and writing and have always wanted to create my own novel, but I've found that I never have the time and I put off writing a book in favour of school work and blogging. I realised that having a scheduled time to write and plenty of people supporting me would be a huge benefit and so I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2015.

At first, I found the event to be fairly easy and I quickly raced through my daily word count guideline, trying my hardest to put all of my thoughts onto paper before they escaped me. Since NaNoWriMo started towards the end of a school holiday, I had plenty of time to write and think about where I wanted my novel to go. This was definitely the stage where I didn't understand why so many people complained about NaNoWriMo being incredibly difficult, as I was doing extremely well in the early days and thought that this would continue onwards.

I was wrong. After the first few days, everything starts to get more difficult. Holes start to arise in your plot and it's easy for the direction of the story to take a complete turn. As I had exhausted my initial ideas, these days were simply filled with developing points and improving the existing content I had, since I couldn't think of anything new to add. In these days, I still managed to write quite a bit, but I only surpassed the target by a small amount every day.

About 9 or 10 days in, NaNoWriMo, for me, became impossible. I found out that I had lots of tests towards the end of November, some being mocks and others counting towards my GCSE's, meaning that these had to take priority. With an increase of school work and revision, writing started to creep towards the bottom of my to-do list and was usually slotted in right before I went to sleep. On top of this, I was now almost completely out of ways to develop my ideas and found that it was really hard to make the jump from a short story into a novel, especially in such a restricting time frame.

11 days into the challenge, I made the decision to stop writing. I needed to have a break, both to concentrate on my school work and to put more thought into my story. I had 20,000 words under my belt, which was above target at this point, but I couldn't see myself having enough time to get to 50,000, and if I did I was certain that it wouldn't be to the quality that I wanted it to be. However, I didn't view quitting the challenge as a negative, as I had left with some enjoyable memories and almost half of the first draft for a novel, which is an incredible step in the right direction. I plan on resuming my writing somewhere in the near future, but I definitely won't try and fit it all into one month.

Since I definitely learnt a lot from taking part in NaNoWriMo and realised that there's a systematic way to go about it, I thought I'd share all of my advice with you as it will hopefully be helpful and assist you in reaching 50,000 words.


Before NaNoWriMo Begins:
  • Come up with a basic plot idea or characters that you want to use. Although words that you write before the month can't be counted towards your 50,000, there is no rule against planning your novel and doing some world building or character creation before you start. It is, in fact, encouraged and helps you to have a smooth start to your journey.
  • Allocate a specific time to writing. Make sure that you plan ahead for the month and prepare a time to write, as this will make you more likely to stick to it. This is especially useful if you are going on holiday or will be busy during the month, as you will be reassured that there will still be time for your novel. However, don't be too strict with this, as it's okay to write more in one day or miss a session in another.
  • Plan out where your story is going. I think that my problem with NaNoWriMo was that I had a great idea for the start of the story and an equally compelling idea for the end, but I didn't have a clue how to get from A to B. Make sure you know where your story is going and maybe even the chain of events, as this will be particularly useful for your writing and also be useful if you want to include foreshadowing and misdirection.
During NaNoWriMo:
  • Try your hardest to write something whenever you can. Even if it's only a few paragraphs or developing some of your previous work, the words will eventually add up and a little can go a long day. If you take a break for a day, you're less likely to resume writing, so make sure you're consistent and dedicate yourself to writing a bit every day.
  • Let your story flow naturally. Although you might have planned out a detailed idea for your novel, if you find it taking another shape then allow it to. Sometimes the ideas which spontaneously arrive when you are writing are much better than those that you prepared earlier, so don't feel restricted into writing only what you previously planned.
  • Make use of the message boards. There are thousands of other people in the same position as you, all of whom will be willing to help and support you. Whether you need a good idea, help with naming a character or simply some motivation, consult the message boards for this help. I can guarantee that they will be useful and may be crucial when finishing your story.
After NaNoWriMo:
  • Don't beat yourself up if you don't reach your target. 50,000 words is a lot to achieve in 30 days, especially if you're busy with other commitments, so don't be upset if you can't quite get there. Instead, be proud of what you have achieved in the time and remember that this isn't final. You can always revisit your novel and add things in the future, so don't think that it's over and incomplete at the end of November.
  • Remember to go back to your novel in the future. Whether you complete NaNoWriMo or not, remember that your novel will only be in its first or second draft. There is still plenty of developing that you can do and changes that you can make before it could be considered a finished novel. Don't forget about all of your hard work and make a promise to yourself to revisit it in the future.
  • Take a well-earned break. After a month of hard work and stress, you deserve to have a relax and not worry about your story. Writing can be a draining process, especially in such a short space, so make sure you make up for your lack of free time in November and take a break. After a few weeks or even months, you may return to your novel with renewed passion and ideas, so it's good to have this time off for a short while. 
Overall, I just want you to be able to enjoy the month as much as I did. Regardless of whether you reach the target or not, you are left with some fantastic memories and a large chunk of your first draft completed. If you're considering taking part then I'd definitely recommend it, and you can join me as I can guarantee that I'll try again next year!

Love from Daisy x

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