50,132 Words: What I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo

At 5:21am on Tuesday, November 28, I hit 50,000 words on a new book.

“You, wonderful author, spent this past November unleashing your creative powers, fighting back inner editors, and teaming up with thousands of writers around the world. We’re incredibly proud to welcome you to the NaNoWriMo winner’s hall.

Congratulations on your superheroic achievement!” — NaNoWriMo Congrats Email

This November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Writers around the world step up to the challenge of writing a short novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. It isn’t about grammar, punctuation or even coherency. It is about getting the words out.

I like to think of it as a purge. All year, I gather information on characters from my casual run-ins with friends or customers at the grocery store. I hear tales or research items of interest. I’m mentally mulling over ideas, crimes scenes and investigative tactics.

November first is the gunshot that starts the writing frenzy to output the ideas, conversations and plot lines into a document on my computer.

But there were a few additional benefits from participating in NaNoWriMo this time around:

My Voice
As writers hone their craft, there is a progression. The first attempts mimic favourite writers. They write in the same style and look to copy the ones they admire. As they grow, writers start to find their own voice. The stories transition to “in the style of” to one’s own writing style.

This NaNoWriMo was a different exercise for me because I felt like I had started to find my own voice. I felt like it was coming from a place in me that perhaps wasn’t tapped in earlier versions or works. I’m looking forward to what my future writings will resemble.

The Discipline
To reach the 50,000 word goal, I had to type at least 1,667 words a day. This occurs while juggling work, volunteer hours, holiday planning and celebrating American Thanksgiving. 1,667 words a day was on average one and a half hours a day.

I would wake up two hours before my husband to write in my journal and then type out 1,667 words on my novel. Every day. Even weekends. Even holidays.

There were days when my muse refused to clock in. There were days when I wanted to push snooze and ignore the taunts of the word count.

But for 28 days, I got up at 4am to get my words out.

A habit that will continue long after I received the winner email from NaNoWriMo.

Here’s to another successful NaNoWriMo November — and the start of a new writing habit.

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