How NaNoWriMo Changed Me as a Writer

Updated on March 1, 2024.

Through the fanfiction world, I had heard of NaNoWriMo, but never participated. That is, until this year.

The abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it occurs in three months: the official challenge in November, and Camp NaNoWriMo held in April and July. With Camp NaNoWriMo, you have the option to set a word-count goal for a new project or add a new goal to a project you’ve already started. The official challenge in November is more straightforward: write at least 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days.

Since I’ve gone full-time as a developmental editor and proofreader, I’ve spent hours with my nose in different writing craft books. With this growing understanding not only of the mechanics of writing in general, but the techniques to put together engaging, addictive story has come a spark of motivation to dive into writing my own full-length fiction novel(s).

I completed the first draft of my initial manuscript at 11:05 p.m. on July 31st. I’ve been revising that first draft for about two weeks. Not every day of writing in July was easy, but it reinforced three lessons I’d like to pass on to you, especially once you’re knee-deep in the revision process.

Writing Every Day is Overrated

*clutching pearls* Le Gasp.

Yes. I said what I said. I understand the rationale behind writing every day, especially when it comes to fiction. But I don’t subscribe to it, and I don’t recommend it to authors I work with. Writing sessions in and of themselves aren’t bad; forcing a writing session when your brain will not cooperate is detrimental to your creation process.

Of the 31 days of July, I probably wrote on 24 of them. For self-publishing authors, I don’t believe in forcing yourself to do something you’re not in the right mindset to do. I do recommend that you consider starting a daily journal, which I’ve done myself. Write before you start anything else, even before you turn on your laptop. Getting those initial thoughts and worries out of the way leaves you with more mental space to dedicate to writing, creating, or managing your novel’s progress and schedule. That is what will lead to more productive writing sessions, no matter how often you have them.

Self-Editing is Going to Happen

The first draft is known to be the worst one. That’s a fact. Over the month of Camp NaNoWriMo, though, I found myself more often than not in editing mode. I didn’t necessarily edit for consistency, structure, or any of the things developmental editors look at during their reviews. I looked at the strengths and weaknesses of my scenes as they existed in the moment. The major overhauls of structure framework choice, character arcs, and plot/subplot development would happen later.

To me, this is okay so long as the ratio of writing to editing is roughly eighty-five percent to fifteen percent. This equals out to about fifty minutes of writing and ten minutes of editing. That’s just enough time to get the messy info-dumping out of the way, and just enough time to make sure my punctuation and sentence structure are copacetic.

Outside Support is Everything

Most of my cheerleaders for my writing endeavor have come from TikTok. My audience on the platform is slowly growing as I create more educational content. More importantly, I’m connecting with other self-publishing authors actively working on their own novels. We keep each other accountable, encourage each other, and offer reference recommendations or craft advice when one of us is in a writing slump.

Though writing is an isolated venture, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Writing friends and critique partners, the joy that are #BookTok and #WritersofTikTok, and those positive affirmations I love sharing make the book creation process more enjoyable and more productive.

I wrote “The End” to my first manuscript on July 31st 11:05 p.m. That marked the end of my participation in Camp NaNoWriMo 2023. August is my rest period. As torturous as it is, I am not touching the manuscript at all. This gives me a break from the story world and allows me to approach the first round of edits with a fresh perspective.

Naturally, this means a story idea jumped me while I wasn’t looking. And by story I idea, I mean premise, conflict, and resolution. The makings of my second novel. There will be a ton of preparation needed before I start writing it, but I’m hoping to be done by the end of October so I can take on the full challenge of National Novel Writing Month in November. I’ll be taking the lessons I learned from Camp NaNoWriMo along for the ride.

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