NaNoWriMo Lessons: The Once and Future Writer

November happens only once a year, but I’m a writer all the time.

If there are any lessons I learned this month, that’s the biggie. I had this epiphany moment at Panera the other day with my writing group. It was Monday, and my next day off was Thursday, so naturally I asked if anyone would be around. The response I got was: “You mean December 1?”

I get needing some R&R after a long month of feverish writing. I do. But I sat there for a moment with only a quiet thought going through my head. I’ll be writing December 1. 

Me. As depicted by Except not really me.

After writing almost 100,000 words this month (novels + blog), I don’t feel burned out. I feel somehow rejuvenated. Ready to tackle December. Ready to get my books on shelves after so long. So without further ado and sentence fragments, here’s what NaNoWriMo taught me this month.

1. I’ve written over 50,000 words in a month many times in the last couple years.
This was one of those sort of sort of “mind blown” moments. I realized that when I’m in my groove, I probably surpass that easily. It’s not all novel — a lot of it is blog or rewriting — but it gives me some hope  that I can make a sustainable career out of writing. I write all the time anyway.

Mind. Blown. Like this image will do to you, thanks to

2. Not all NaNo writing is crap.
I got the sense from several people that when they finish NaNoWriMo, they either toss their manuscript out the window or resign themselves to spending the other eleven months of the year editing said manuscript into sensibility. In spite of that warning, I am happy with a lot of what I got done this month. I haven’t gone back and read all of it, and I’m sure there will be some “WTF” moments in there, but what I have read, I enjoy a lot. So it’s not always the case that when you’re done plowing through those 50,000 words that finding the good stuff will be like reenacting this scene from Jurassic Park.

Love Jeff Goldblum. Image property of Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.

3. NaNo is a great exercise, but if that’s all the writing you put effort into during a year, it’s like spending a month at the gym in January after the holidays when February-December finds you on the sofa with a bag of Cheetos.
Want to write? You’ve gotta do it all the time. Ask any author who makes her living with words. Follow Laurell Hamilton on Twitter and  see how many pages she churns out per day. If you want to be a career writer, every month will be NaNoWriMo. If you don’t, you won’t have much of a career.

4. NaNo can be what you need it to be, much like The Thing.
Maybe you need a writing colonic, and you need to  just flush out 50,000 words of poo. The Almighty Poom (see above link) believes that you need to do that to get rid of the poo before you can write anything good. If November needs to be your colonic, it can be.

November can also mean you get some really good stuff done. I finished a novel and got almost 30% done with the third of my trilogy. I will need to edit, of course, but a lot of it is great.

The Thing knows how to adapt. Image property of Universal Pictures.

And finally, like I said in the opening of this blog, November happens once a year, but I am a writer all the time. In the spirit of staying on track, here’s what you can expect from me in the month of December:

December will be a month of editing and polishing. Not what I wrote for NaNo, but the first novel of my trilogy. I will be writing some posts about that process, as well as discussing the trouble spots I find and what I’m doing to fix it. There are some structural elements that need work. The rocks have gone through the tumbler, but they need a bit more help to shine.

A couple times a week, I will be adding to what I have of book three, working to seamlessly integrate the changes of book one into the existing material as well as expanding on it as I go. It’s a trilogy; I need unity and balance. My goal is to have three books that work as one — a story told in three acts, each of which also has three acts. I want to apply the structural process of a novel to the trilogy to give it solidity and cohesion.

I will also be working on my rickety little platform, trying to learn what I can and expand what I have. I suggest you check out Kristen Lamb’s blog for some awesome tips — I just bought her book We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, so I can’t wait to start using some of her tools and tips!

Finally, I will be researching agents. I know, I know! Squee! Most of the agents I spend time researching this month will be either my top choice agents in general or specifically the agents who will be at the Writer’s Digest Conference in January. I will make sure to give you all a keyhole look into that process as well, so you can see what I’m doing if it’s new to you or bop me on the head and give me a better way if you’re a pro. (Feel free to do that second thing.)

With that, gentle viewers, I bid you farewell for today. Happy final NaNo scrambling for those so inclined, and as December beckons, write on.


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on November 30, 2011, in life intervention, writing business, writing process, writing progress and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Happy NaNo to you too 🙂
    My NaNo was mostly rubbish – I just needed to get back into the swing of writing, after a long, LOOOOONG break away from the trade. Having kids, moving countries, and buying a farm tend to get in the way of things, somehow.
    I started the novel with absolutely no thought as to how it might end, and the night before the Exciting And Dramatic Conclusion, I was lying in bed, racking my brains trying to figure out how to finish the damn thing off.
    So yes, almost (but not entirely) rubbish, but it served its purpose. I’ll probably publish it anyway, as an eBook, but now I’m back in the saddle, I’m feeling good about actually planning something sensible and readable for my next effort 🙂
    Congratulations on finishing – and here’s to the next effort! May it be lots of fun!
    Leanne over at Leanne’s NaNoWriMo

  2. Hmm, some of my lessons-learned are like yours, but inside-out.

    For example, I had the “mind blown” moment siting on my bed eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes and thinking, “I just wrote the equivalent of almost a quarter of my first book in less than a month. If I had dedicated myself to writing, taken myself seriously, I could have finished that book in one year instead of three.”

    My Frosted Flakes did not seem so tasty after that thought.

    I do write all the time, but I don’t write as much as I could. Going forward, I’ll be writing more. It wasn’t that strenuous to write the 2,000 words a day I was averaging in November.

    I also learned that I’m not a super-powered speed-writer. I do need to take my time for most of my writing. Every now and then I get inspired and write a TON of quality words, but for everyday writing, I do a little better without the pressure of NaNo.

    But here’s to a prolific eleven other months of the year!

  3. Alright, well, I stumbled into your blog just browsing and if nothing else, I’m going to have to go figure out what a NaNoWriMo is. 🙂

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