How NaNoWriMo kicked me into a good writing habit

Winner NaNoWriMo 2010

First time entered -- and won

For the first time in my life I wrote every day for 30 days.

I found out I had some self-discipline after all, that I could write even when I didn’t feel like it.

Every November, the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Since 1999 people all around the world have joined in the fun, aiming to write 1667 words every day.

I realised early I could win

Before November started I didn’t expect to write every day, so I gave myself a higher target of 2000 words to leave a few days to recover in case I collapsed in a heap. For the first thirteen days I wrote an average of 2000 words a day. If the word count was down a bit one day, I made it up the next. I was excited and motivated, and didn’t miss a day.

Day fourteen, with only 550 words, was the start of a long stuggle. The next day I made it up, writing 3257 words, my record high. Then the nightmare —  I lost that whole day’s work because I used some new software and after that every day was a struggle.

Believing I could win kept me writing

My word count fell in the last half of the month, but was still ahead of the 1667 NaNoWriMo average. That meant as long as I pushed myself to write every day, I could still reach 50,000 in time and win.

Three things kept me going:

  • Word count: I entered my word count every day on the NaNoWriMo web site and it graphed my progress against a straight diagonal line which was the ideal 166.666…  words a day. The further above the line I crept the happier I was. When I was close to falling below it I would get a rush of adrenaline which kept me writing a few more hours before logging the day’s total. Once I missed the midnight deadline and my precious graph showed no words at all for the day. I was shattered, even though the next day showed two days’ work.
  • People: I went to regular write-ins at city cafes. Everyone was very happy and welcoming. We were all going through the same bouts of triumph and despair. It was a weird sort of competition because there was no way the organisers could check if we cheated, but I knew I didn’t and that was enough. Some people wrote all year round and others did it just for the buzz in November. Everyone had different reasons for writing, and publication was not high on the list.
  • Believing I could win: I learned early that I could churn out the words day after day, so when things were tough I just kept going without feeling my usual self-doubt.

In the end I struggled through to win NaNoWriMo two days early. I had a whole first draft of my first novel of 50,058 words.

Closer to that new writing habit

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I now write nearly every day. There are always going to be distractions and procrastination, but if I don’t write for a day or even a week, I don’t beat myself up, I just get back to writing.

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Do you have a good writing habit?
Leave a comment and tell us how you got started.

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About Jude

I retired to Tasmania where I write poetry and walk with my dog.
This entry was posted in National Novel Writing Month, Novel writing, Uncategorized, Writing habits, Writing resources. Bookmark the permalink.

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