NaNoWriMo: Five things I learned shooting for the stars

This is my "Writer's Wednesday" post, coming a day late to give the final wrap-up on NaNoWriMo. If you've been a "Nanner" this month, please chime in and let me know how it went for you.

I set my goal absurdly high at the beginning of the month, matching the reality of an 80K-word standard for novels in my genre. I talked about the project way back in the last IWSG post on Nov. 2. 

Tonight I reached the end of my day's writing energy, and then some, at 72,032 words. That's the most I've even done in a month, and I have some thoughts about that, and about life and its relationship to writing. First, I figured out tonight how to adjust my personal goal, so I dropped it down to 70k for a "win." That doesn't actually change the fact that I'm going to spend the next two days in my artist's retreat trying to finish the book. So here are five things I learned this month:

1. Go ahead and set your goals high. Whatever "high" is for you. Then be happy if you even get close. I tried for 80K, and didn't get there, but I wrote a lot more than if I'd just settled for the standard NaNo target of 50K.

2. The better the outline, the better I'll do at writing. My outline was weak and incomplete, and I let the NaNo enthusiasm push me to start before I was ready. As a result, I struggled through the middle of the book, both to make word counts and to make a story worth reading.

3. Thanksgiving break is different when you are hosting your family instead of being hosted. In past NaNo years, I've been happy to use the novel as an excuse to retreat from the gang. With my adult children visiting me at my new home, I didn't want to retreat. I might have suffered a bit from sensory overload, but I wanted all the time with them I could get.

4. No matter what I do, my first draft is a hot mess. Get over it, and get on to the end. I have to have faith in my increasing ability to rewrite.

5. Writing in a single burst is energizing, and it makes it easier to keep track of what your character is doing. But I still can't retain it all in my head. I'm honestly starting to think I need to write a story summary alongside my first draft so I can remember what's up.

And one tip, not new for this month (for that matter, neither is #4, or #2): keep some kind of document listing characters, and one for settings. If you have a 7-Eleven on the corner of 3rd and Main in Chapter 3, you will need to remember that when your characters drive back past there in Chapter 17. I also keep a random name generator on a tab, and use it.


Finally, a shout-out and thanks to Hypatia-in-the-Woods/Holly House for the amazing residency I'm enjoying as I wrap up this splat of a novel. I've been inspired by a barred owl, bald eagles, seals, and snowstorms while here!

Because I always like to leave you with a photo or two, here you go!


Barred owl on a branch just beyond the deck.

Sword ferns in the snow.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2022
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