National Novel Writing Month is over for another year. Alas and alack I didn’t finish my novel, but I DID learn a lot from the experience. Here are my top 5 lessons from trying to write a novel in 30 days:
1. Discipline is Essential
I would never get anything done without some serious self-discipline. Through trial and error, I know that I will be most productive if I wake up early and do work in chunks of an hour and a half with fifteen minute breaks. Setting hourly word count hurdles and daily goals helped me to stay focussed.
A disciplined writing routine is like playing catch with one ball after juggling for hours. When I’m writing, I want to commit 100% of my effort to the task at hand. Then as soon as I hit my daily goal, I reward myself by putting away my writing until tomorrow and focussing on something different. As Ron Swanson says, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
2. Shit Happens
As a writer and a uni student, I feel most confident when I’m well organised. However, there will always be hiccups along the way that no amount of planning can prevent. I didn’t know my novel had plot-holes until I stumbled on them. When confronted with an unexpected problem, I discovered that the solution can sometimes be just as unexpected. When I started following the flow and getting all loosey-goosey with my creativity, I had some amazing “Eureka!” moments and small breakthroughs. Sometimes the best stuff is unplanned.
3. All Ideas Are Valuable
Don’t scrap an idea just because it doesn’t fit in right now. I’m in the habit of writing down sentences or plot ideas in case they’re useful down the track. I would regret losing these spontaneous creative gems. I find index cards on a cork board helpful because I love having all my ideas visible while I write. Many of these ideas sneak into my work later down the track.
4. Overthinking Kills Creativity
I don’t mean planning – planning is constructive! – I mean when you let perfectionism get in the way of producing work. Stop second-guessing yourself and start writing down whatever words come to mind. If I let the little editor in my head judge me while I’m writing, I’d never get any work done. I was amazed by how much I can write once I stop overthinking and go berserk.
5. Breaks Help Beat Writer’s Block
I am much more prone to writer’s block just after lunch – my body is telling me it’s time for a siesta while my brain is telling me that I’m a failure if I don’t write an amazing sentence right now! That combo is deadly to my creativity.
One of my secrets to beating writer’s block is taking a break before I get even more stuck. I discovered that I can plan small errands or a coffee break for times of day that I’m least productive. That way I can cut the crap and come back to my work refreshed.
I hope that you relate to or find some of these helpful. Do you have any writing lessons to add to this list? How did your NaNoWriMo attempt go?