What I Learned On My First 50K Word Marathon

National Novel Writer’s Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s called, is a call to arms for writers.

Once a year, NaNoWriMo encourages you to write a novel, or at least, 50,000 words or  roughly 200 pages of one.

We are nearly a week away from the November 30th “finish line.” So what did I learn from my failed attempt to write 50,000 words of, in my case, fiction, in 30 days?

In a word: Focus.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing this month:

  • Journal entries for the scrapbook I’m making for my son.
  • Character backgrounds for my RP characters.
  • How my company can provide life safety services.
  • Blog entries.
  • Edits to freelance pieces for my clients.
  • Handwritten edits for a story a good friend is writing.

Still, setting that 50K word goal kept me on plot. I didn’t do a lot of writing, but my characters started walking and talking on her own, so to speak, and my plot is set down. Seeing daily posts from the local NaNo community, and reading about their own “marathons” kept me focused on my story, even when I couldn’t find time to actually write it.  Every time I logged on, I found a reason to stick with it. Every random post about character names or asking for ideas for creating forensic evidence pushed me to go further. I never made it to a write in, but I am still extremely grateful to my fellow writers.

Everyone’s a Winner…

I applaud anyone who managed to get those 50K words in, but what NaNo really taught me is that it’s all about writing. NaNo was an opportunity to hear other perspectives on the hard work that goes into actually writing a novel. Writing is hard work. Writing has all of the rules and precision of higher math, with the added stress of critical and creative thinking. It’s not just about solving for X, you also have to know who X is, why X needs to be solved, and how Y even entered the equation. Then, once you know that, you have to convince everyone else that X is worth solving for. If you managed to do that this month, even if you didn’t hit the 50K, you’ve won. Plot is the hardest part of a story.

Jim Butcher is Right…

So much so that I’m willing to forgive him the use of the word “ain’t”. There – ahem – isn’t any free lunch. If you got a significant toe hold into your dream, if you’re planning to keep at it after November 30th, heck, even if you rediscovered your love of writing, you’ve won.

Winning in writing is simply not giving up.

Writing Takes Discipline…

Unless you’re independently wealthy and can make working on your novel your primary focus, writing takes discipline, more specifically, making time to write takes discipline. It’s not easy coming home from eight or ten hours in the Dilbert Principle, or looking after kids all day, running a business, or running a household, and then sitting down in front of a keyboard. You have to actually be disciplined. You have to treat writing almost as though it’s a second (or third, one of my favorite stories this year, Amateurs and Adventurers, by Lee Duckett, was written in between multiple part-time jobs and a full-time job search).

See You Next Year…

Anyone who got near that 50K, or even exceeded it, there are more than a few in my local NaNo chapter, you are my writing idols. One week out from November 30, with multiple proposals, a plethora of freelance work, and a holiday with my son in between, I’m gracefully declaring defeat.

I am not giving up on my writing. I’m not giving up on my story. I’ll take everything I learned this experience and keep going.

Speaking of which…

2 thoughts on “What I Learned On My First 50K Word Marathon

  1. Good one.
    I find myself in a similar spot. I’ve been writing A LOT this month, but not everything contributes to my NaNoWriMo project. I think this challenge is different for everyone. I surely am proud of what I’ve achieved while still maintaining a full-time life outside of NaNo.


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