I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for 12 years and this year will mark the 10 year anniversary of my first win.  It’s been a regular in my writing routine that there is never a question about whether I’ll plan a novel for November.  But now that I’ve won more frequently than I’ve lost, do I need NaNoWriMo anymore?

When I first started NaNoWriMo, I was a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” writer.  I would like to write a novel, I could write a good story, I should write something down.  I couldn’t get the daydream past the thought stage.  NaNoWriMo changed that.

Here’s what I learned from NaNoWriMo

  • Write every day.  It doesn’t have to be epic, it doesn’t have to be good, just get words on paper, text in document, smoke in sky, however you write.  Do it.  Daily.
  •  Shut Up the Inner Editor.  Quieting the inner voice that tells you that your work isn’t good enough is the key to getting drafts done.  You can’t get a story done if you keep going back to fix it.  Stop. It.  Tell the inner editor to STFU and keep writing.
  • Set a deadline.  You don’t have to continually write a novel in 30 days but having a date you want the project to be complete will help you set the pace.  Regardless of how you plan to publish, deadlines will always play a role and you need to manage your workload within your time frames.  Besides, sometimes a deadline induced panic can spawn some real genius.
  • Don’t go it alone.  NaNoWriMo has this massive site with helpful articles, forums, friends and more.  Although the act of writing is solitary, being a writer doesn’t have to be.  Having a confidant who knows the struggle can make the worst days tolerable.  They can motivate you to keep going.  And tell you stop whining when you are being your own worst enemy.

So now, a decade later, when I know these things, have the support I need, and drive to keep doing, what more do I have to learn from NaNoWriMo?  What’s your experience?  What have you taken away from  participating?