National Novel Writing Month Follow Up: Lessons Learned

November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and for the past few months, I’ve offered blog posts about the month-long typing rally that included ideas about plot points; time management; and using markers to move beyond sticky sections. This month, I’ll offer a wrap-up of what I learned and accomplished. First, while I did not achieve the goal of 1,600 words per day, I succeeded in other areas that were surprising to me. Second, I found that I will continue the NaNoWriMo mindset throughout the year.

Writing Habits Established

My original goal had been to create 1,600 words of prose per day. I did not accomplish that. On some days, I was in the negative territory. But that’s because I was revising my cozy mystery, not starting with original material. The main purpose of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words of a new book. I was in a subset of the main group where I was still in the game, just working from a different angle. I had a novel, but it needed major revision. During the month-long writing session, I discovered the true joy of the NaNoWriMo competition: Novel writing is my priority. Putting words on the page for my cozy mystery series comes first, before other writing projects. I reserve the early morning, my most productive time, to novel writing. Also, Mondays are blocked out entirely, and they are devoted to my novel project. Putting words on the page every day with NaNoWriMo developed and improved my writing schedule. That alone was worth the price of admission.

The Writing-as-Priority-Mindset Throughout the Year

The more time I spent with my characters and the setting they live in—Cinnamon, Wisconsin—the more time I wanted to spend with them. Most days, I couldn’t wait to jump back into their fictional world. New ideas kept improving what I had on the page. Because I knew the characters and setting so well, the concept “hook” of the series came to me one morning. (Maybe it was the strong coffee. Or, perhaps it was sugar energy from the bite of chocolate I’d indulged in. But I truly believe it was that I’d spent so much time with the book I could define it in single sentence that was succinct and memorable.) The hook and its corresponding pitch proved effective. At the virtual pitch session I attended in mid-November, it produced requests for chapters.

During the month, in addition to revised pages, I composed supplemental materials including the hook, a long synopsis, and a short one. As far as synopses go, I recommend first writing the long one. Write as many pages as it takes to reveal the major plot points of your story. Then, tackle the short one. The shorter one is more difficult, but it’s the backbone of the query, pitch, and hook. It’s easier to write if you spend hard time with your novel every day. NaNoWriMo gets you into the habit of doing that.

Thirty days of dedication to a single book and its materials established a writing routine that I don’t want to stop. I’ve developed a habit of guarding my writing time without feeling stressed about it. Other things can wait. My priority is to write the untold books that need to be on the page and in bookshelves. (Watch for a future blog post about imposter syndrome, which is a significant problem among writers.)

I highly recommend participating in NaNoWriMo. Do not let the 50,000-word target be a deterrent. Approach the contest from an angle that works for your book’s goals. While the main goal is maximum words on the page, there are many other benefits associated with the month. I discovered new writing strategies, a new awareness of my book, and a new dedication to book writing, in general.

I hope to blog with good news in 2021 about my cozy mystery series. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, writers. May you have a safe, blessed 2021. ~ Tracey Kathryn

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