This year will be the fifth year I’ve dived into the exciting waters of NaNoWriMo. I’ve won three of them, surpassing fifty thousand words. I quite excited about this year because I’m the most ready that I’ve ever been for NaNoWriMo. I have a good bit of my novel plotted, enough to get me started. I have great confidence that I’ll cross the finished line with an almost complete novel.
I never imagined that I would grow to love this challenge. The task seemed so daunting the first year I participating. Fifty thousand words seemed impossible, but I did it and I was hooked. Once I got past my initial fear of writing so many words in 30 days, I realized that NaNoWriMo has been a great way to develop as a writer.
I am not the same writer as I was in 2007. I shudder to think of how bad my writing must have been back then. NaNoWriMo has helped me improve my craft. When you write fifty thousand bad words, it’s easy to recognize when something is good. More valuable than improving my craft, I’ve figured out what kind of novelist I am. That alone is work all the effort.
As I NaNo’ed, I figured out my process. I figured out that I can’t work with a detailed outline of my novel ahead of time. I figured out that I must discover the plot as I write. That was a major revelation. I need to know my characters and their background, but during NaNoWriMo, I need to let them lose on the page and let them do what they do naturally.
Yes, I admit that this is not the ideal way for writers who want to move to a place of getting publishing contracts by synopsis only. I, however, cannot change my process. Heaven knows I tried. But each year, I find that I only need a general idea of the story before I get started. Having it all mapped out doesn’t work for me. I need to be engaged in the story just as my reader is, discovering the twists and turns as I go.
I think that’s the most valuable prize I will ever get from NaNoWriMo. Now that I know how I write, I can write all year round, discovering my stories as I go.