50,000 Words Later: Farewell, NaNoWriMo 2013

Image by mpclemens (CC BY 2.0)

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 winner words-pictures-music)

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.”

Stacy’s Writing Rules

Among the most interesting and inspiring perspectives are those of the writers who didn’t finish their project, whether their final tally was 1,14614,474, 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.”

Gwen Hernandez, The Edited Life

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 and grammar 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!


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Ben Huberman

25 Comments

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  1. Broke Dreamer

    For those who may wonder how they’ll keep up writing like they did for the month of November, and say they cannot just ignore everything the were ignoring the last moth, here’s some advice I have for you all. When your end goal is greater than your daily desires, you will make the sacrifices necessary to succeed. Time management is the key. Want to be a writer and be serious about it? Instead of taking a 15 minute (or if you’re me you are cutting it from down from a 30 minute shower) take a 10 minute shower. Maybe instead of taking 40 minutes to relax and eat. Take 20 or 30 minutes. Watch one less half hour of watching videos/tv shows/movies videos or playing video games a day. If you work out don’t go slow between exercises. If you’re there for two hours, make sure you are working out for two hours. Then based on how much time you have free set S M.A.R.T. goals: goals that at are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time specific. Make daily, weekly and longer term goals. Set a reasonable goal based on what time you have available, then after you are hitting that goal challange yourself with a tougher once you are hitting that goal.

    Like

  2. Paul Handover

    Appreciate the links. Yes, NaNoWriMo was quite a journey!

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  3. promisesofcoffee

    I wish I followed through with this! I commend you all!

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  4. Gwen Hernandez

    Thanks for including my blog post here! Great tips and advice. :-)

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  5. Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Wowza!!! Tres, tres cool. What determination! Kudos!!!

    Like

  6. Cole

    Thanks for the link… just when I thought it was premature to be giving advice about NaNo2014…. :D

    This is a great piece. It made me nostalgic all over again, but I’m not dwelling on it too long – starting my next novel on Wednesday next week. Yup, another one in a month :) It’s all about momentum!

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  7. Terry D.

    This is awesome. Congrats to the winner, and thumbs up to the diligent bloggers and authors who forged through heavy eyelids and any roadblocks along this journey! Well done…

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  8. dqs02

    My favorite part is the chocolate.

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  9. shalilah2002

    Why is there so much emphasis on how many words there are in a post or article instead of the content?

    Like

    • Ben Huberman

      You’re absolutely right that the content is more important than the word count. In fact, that’s one of the main points the NaNoWriMo participants mentioned here make — that their main accomplishment is the writing they produced and community they created, not the raw number of words they typed.

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    • Jackie Dana

      The point behind NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in a month, but one of the ways success is measured is a regularly building word count with 50,000 words being the minimum that’s considered a “win.” In that sense, it’s more about the process than the outcome, with the idea that the more you write—and the more regularly—the better your writing will become.

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  10. Rocky Anight

    It was a good beginning and great opportunity for myselfe. Thanks.

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  11. Zaggeta

    I wish I could actually take part. Going to have to wait for 2015 until I am devoid of exams taking up my time.

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  12. Editor001

    Wow, I wish I had known about this. I would have joined in. I stopped writing everyday for a litany of ridiculous excuses. And I know better. I’ve thrown out more words than most have ever written.

    The sheer number of words isn’t all that staggering, considering we speak on an average of 5000-7000 words a day. Imagine if you wrote your thoughts down instead of saying them out loud?

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    • Jackie Dana

      NaNoWriMo will happen again next November, but in the meantime you might try Camp NaNoWriMo next spring and summer: http://campnanowrimo.org/about

      I found that the writing community was huge to inspire me and keep me going, so even without an NaNo event coming up soon, you might also check around in your local area for writing groups and organizations. You can often find groups via Google or Meetup.com or by looking for flyers and events at locally-owned bookstores.

      Like

  13. orthodoxmom3

    I didn’t do NaNoWriMo but I did take part in PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month) and felt really good about it. Congrats to all who participated in NaNoWriMo!!

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  14. lambskinny

    I won! For the third year… and yes, the content is very important… but so are the words.

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  15. codeninja89

    Sad I couldn’t participate. I love to write! I feel I express myself better in written words than in spoken language. I’m definitely going to participate in the next NaNoWriMo!

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  16. katieloui

    kinda sad to see it all end…

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  17. fjsaunders9704

    I can’t count the number of times I almost took part in NaNoWriMo but never did! Now, with everything said and done, I find myself regretting it. Congrats to all of you who completed it! I am envious of you all :)

    Like

  18. Millie Ho

    You can always start your own December Novel Writing Month. And January, and February.

    I’m doing December Novel Writing Month with a few friends, and it’s been indispensable to sustaining my writing momentum.

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  19. mojo911

    It’s like a marathon. I watch those from the sidelines, too.

    Like

  20. tconeil

    My second NaNo win. I’m 2 for 2, but I let two Nano’s go by before trying a second time. It was much easier the second time because I already knew I could do it. All of that energy I wasted worrying the first time went into other things. #2 continues the story that I realized had just begun in #1, and I found it very challenging to write that first “catch-up” chapter. I’m still working on it at Scribophile.com (an outstanding site) where I’ve learned a ton from great people in a short amount of time.

    They convinced me that social networking is a requirement of becoming more serious about my writing craft, so today is day #1 of my WordPress blog. So far I’m using the free stuff, but I can see some clear financial advantages of forking out some pocket change here in the future. Cheers and blessings to all except my inner editor.

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  21. This is one room

    I did NaNoWriMo this November too and I loved it. I won at twenty five thousand words. I hope to get my book published soon.

    Like

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