A few days ago on this blog, Cheri took a look at this year’s successful National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), the month-long event during which bloggers write a new post every day. The end of November also signaled the finish line of the the granddaddy of all writing challenges, National Novel Writing Month.
This year, 311,575 writers set out to produce a 50,000-word novel in the course of a month. A healthy chunk of those word-marathoners also keep a blog or an author’s site here on WordPress.com. In honor of their labor (and the insane amount of coffee they’ve consumed over the past 30 days), let’s take a look at some of their hard-earned wisdom from the fiction-writing trenches.
NaNoWriMo 2013 Winner Badge (courtesy of challenge winner words-pictures-music)
The thrill of sharing stories
NaNo projects come in all shades of the storytelling spectrum — from dark horror tales to uplifting narratives of redemption. The challenge brings together first-timers and published authors, teenagers and retirees, who form strong bonds over their shared, sleep-deprived writing slog. Jackie Dana — WordPress.com Happiness Engineer by day, speculative-fiction author by night — had this to say about NaNo’s sense of camaraderie, having just finished her first challenge with more than 70,000 words:
You […] revel in the fact that everyone is going through the same hell at the same time, that endless cycle of writing just one more word, but also understand those moments of ecstasy when you get a chapter just right.
These bonds extended into writers’ WordPress.com blogs, too — astonishingly, challenge participants have found the time to write nearly 10,000 posts about NaNoWriMo while trying to meet exacting word-count targets.
Some may have been encouraged by the example of famous authors meeting strict deadlines, as collected by a literary historian cheering on from the sidelines. Others were fortified by the memory of past odysseys, like finishing a Ph.D. dissertation, or the necessity of carving out time to write while raising a small baby.
Building on success — whatever the word-count
Those who made it into December with 50,000 words or more share an overall sense of joy (gifs, anyone?). Many have already started to think about what’s next, whether it’s editing their work or considering publication options (if you’re one of those, do check out these helpful tips by a panel of seasoned NaNo authors). All over WordPress.com, badge winners are analyzing their process of writing and offering helpful insights for those who might be interested in participating next year. Mostly, they are satisfied and exhausted:
“I am proud of myself for not giving up — because there were days when I really wanted to.”
Among the most interesting and inspiring perspectives are those of the writers who didn’t finish their project, whether their final tally was 1,146, 14,474, 22,033, or 30,000 words. Participating in a challenge like NaNoWriMo is an incredible experience because it pushes even the busiest procrastinators to make a commitment, to hone their craft, and to find their voice. As one writer-blogger puts it, having written “just” 37,735 words:
For me, it’s not about the 50K so much as the rejuvenation of my writing mind and soul, the cultivation of the habits that help me get the work done, and the increased output that is still a huge leap for me, even if I don’t “win.”
The next eleven months
Now that the challenge is over, it’s important not to let the momentum dissipate into a holiday lull. Whether you want to finish your manuscript, polish it, start a new project, or devote more time to your blog, there are many things you can do to keep yourself focused on your writing.
Use your blog for feedback. As many a NaNo graduate knows, posting excerpts of your work on your WordPress.com blog is a great way to invite constructive criticism from the community. You can expand your readership and invite your friends to chime in by connecting your blog to your social networks.
Make the most of The Daily Post community. You can be even more proactive about soliciting feedback by participating in the weekly Community Pool, where bloggers are invited to share links to their work, whatever stage of progress it is in. With posts on all things craft-related, from writing andgrammar tips to tools for longform writers, your quills are sure to remain sharpened. And don’t forget our weekly writing challenges, which often feature fiction-friendly topics.
Take advantage of NaNoWriMo’s resources for writers. The lively community that comes together every November doesn’t disappear on December 1st. Check out the NaNo forums, whether it’s for feedback or advice on editing and publishing.
Congratulations to all WordPress.com NaNoWriMo participants — you’re an inspiration to us all!