06 November 2010

Winning NaNoWriMo: A Shiny Perspective

by Jessica Rossen

Tell a newbie about NaNo’s 50,000 word goal and eyes widen. That or the person is utterly clueless and just nods. We’ll ignore the latter. Wide Eyes has the right idea. 50k new words on a project is a big undertaking. Sure, a writer can crank out nearly 2k words in a day. The question is, can it be done every day for an entire month? (A month which holds both expected and likely unexpected interruptions, I might add.)

Well, yes. It can be done. It is done every day by some writers, NaNo or no. Does that make hitting the 50k target any less thrilling? Sure doesn’t. Pat yourself on the back, you did it!

But… is that all there is to it?

The answer is a simple “no.” Scratch the surface of NaNo and its 50k pennant and you will find treasures. They don’t sound like bling, but they’re some of the greatest gifts a writer can receive. You only get them if you earn them. One of the best ways to earn them is to do NaNo as well as you can.
You’ll note I said “as well as you can.” For some, that means putting in available time and plugging away at it, but not reaching the 50k. True, not getting the 50k pennant can be disappointing, but there’s a broader picture. By sticking with the project, you learn and develop important skills.

• The discipline to write no matter what. Maybe you had a bad day – a bad week! – at the dayjob and the baby’s teething. You still took what little available time you had and wrote. Did you feel like writing? Probably not. The point is you did it. That’s shiny.

• The understanding you can trust your instincts. For many, habitual second-guessing locks up the ability to write. It’s the equivalent of going deer in the headlights for a writer. Stick with NaNo and learn the perfect word is whichever word comes to you. Type it and keep going. The whole paragraph may change in revisions later, so you know better than to waste time on a single word. That’s shiny.

• The ability to shut down the inner editor and Just Write. This one cannot be underestimated. First drafts are meant to be ugly: Just. Write. Get what you know of the story out onto the page or into pixels. When it’s time for revisions, you’ll have the plotline as a whole in better perspective. That’s really shiny.

There are more treasures to be found within the NaNo world. Everyone experiences it differently. You’ll learn the lessons you most need. Even better, you’ll get the opportunity to pass that learning on to others. I come back each year to reinforce these lessons as well as have fun writing. I urge you to keep your mind wide open to the possibilities.

That, dear wrimo, is the Spirit of NaNo.


  1. Great post - NaNo can be a great confidence builder and habit-builder. I particularly like the line: 'stick with NaNo and learn the perfect word is whichever word comes to you'.

  2. For me the chance to shut up the inner critic is what's surfacing in this process!

  3. This is my first foray into NaNo land. I am already seeing the benefits of some of the things you mentioned.

  4. My inner critic is a loud mouth. I struggle through nano, really, but it's an excellent exercise.

  5. I really enjoyed this post! And the shiny perspective made me smile, because boy do those things matter this month! I never really thought of all the points learned, but they definitely are true, and I'm going to keep them in mind (especially the instinct part) this November!

  6. Dead spot on. The words themselves are like the miles covered by a marathoner - a venue to be one person at the start, a different person at the end.

  7. That's a good point Tony. I often marvel at how I used to read books without any awareness of the effort taken to write them and the changes the people experienced as a result.