What I Learned from NaNoWriMo 2010

Wow!  A week with no posts.  Sorry about that.  I was away last week doing all sorts of family craziness.  And then I got back on Sunday...  And realized I was about 17k into the 50k words to finish my NaNoWriMo novel this year.  With two days left to go.  If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, go check it out at the site.  But basically, it's an annual thing were writers from all over the world get together and write 50k words or more of a novel in thirty days. I've done it three times now, and 'won' all three - that is, completed the required word count.  Last year, I did a little over 25k in the last 24 hours.

This year, I ended up doing the same thing.  I wrote almost 10k on Monday, and then a bit over 25k on Tuesday.  I finished a little bit before 11:30PM.  And this was one of the things I learned: I *enjoy* that level of intensity.  I like having that crushing deadline to face, and get a kick out of pushing myself to write that many coherent words that quickly.  It's a rush.  Oddly enough, the prose I seem to generate from those "burst days" doesn't seem to be any worse or better than the words I write more slowly.  But I have a lot of fun doing it.  This year, I stayed up until 2am writing.  Then I was up again at 8:30, and writing by 9:30.  I had a bad cold, and was dosing myself with Tylenol, which was NOT the most fun...  But I kept writing.  I took breaks to make the family lunch and dinner, and wrote for the rest of the day, taking breaks every hour or so to rest for ten minutes.  Powerful stuff, writing like that.

I learned something else interesting, too.  I had originally intended this book to be a good length: 75k words or so, maybe.  Not epic, but not too short either.  I figured I could finish the rest later.  Instead, sometime around 6pm I hit 40k words and realized I was done.

What the heck?  How did that happen?

I checked my outline.  Done.  I scanned back over the story, looking for gaping holes into which I could inject more story.  Nothing.  It's actually pretty tightly written.  Maybe a little too tightly - an extra subplot or two might have puffed it out to a more novel-like size.  So I sat there staring at this thing I had written.  I had plenty of hours left to write (I can do 2k words an hour when I'm moving), but no story left.  So I did the only thing I could.

I already had ideas for two sequels to this story.  I grabbed the first, and got to work.  Now I've got a novella and 11k of the sequel done.  I checked the NaNo rules - it counts.  ;)

But I do think it's interesting that I seem to migrate to a shorter work unconsciously.  I think I'll try something deliberately HUGE in scope and scale, next.  See where that takes me.