Thursday, November 3, 2016

ARCHIVE: Seven Years of NaNoWriMo...Seven Lessons

Posted by: Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
Veronica sez: Went looking in the Archives today for good posts from the past about NaNoWriMo and I liked this one. Even though we have no updated lessons from  2014 and 2015, why don't you tell us what you've learned in your experience?! Best wishes to everyone participating this month.

So here's what Julie Particka/Seleste DeLaney shared in 2013:

NaNoWriMo is an evil beast. Truly. I signed up for my first time in 2007. At that point, I was full of piss and vinegar and thought it would be a piece of cake--especially when I wrote 7,000 words my first day. Yeah. You know those people that start a race hot out of the gate and then limp over the finish line? That was me my first year. I almost didn't make it. And it took me the rest of that year to finish the book.
Lesson learned in 2007: I need at least a rough outline or I flounder.

In 2008, I had an outline and a plan. I had a story that I loved and characters I adored and wanted to know better. It was set in the town I lived in, so I could run out to research places on short notice if necessary. I was ready to go and I rocked out my 50k by playing it slow and steady. And then I finished the book in December. I...was a rock star in my own mind.
Lesson learned in 2008: Tortoise. Be the tortoise.

After a year of querying and getting nowhere, I sat down to 2009 with a totally different kind of story. Huge in scope and quirky was going to be awesome. I had my outline ready, my planets named and even a history of the 'verse written. Enter the return of the slogging through words. The book sucked. Hard core suckage. But I pushed through to the end, because I was too stubborn to let it go. I finished my 50k and shelved it. (Three months later, I took that space opera and re-wrote it as a steampunk novella. It became my first sale.)
Lesson learned in 2009: Don't get cocky. You need the right story, in the right setting, with the right characters.

In 2010, I was officially a published author, took all those lessons from years past, and sat down to write what was one of the scariest books I'd ever attempted. Not in that it was horror, but in that I was taking a world I'd started in short stories and trying to turn it into a novel. This was the year that everything fell into place. I loved that book. I loved the characters and the energy and... It was the year I screamed NaNo's praises from the rooftop.
Lesson learned in 2010: Sometimes the stars align and things just work (it sounds lame, but this is  a very important thing to remember in the world of publishing.)

By the next year, I had several publishing credits under my belt, and one of my novellas had even won Book of the Year at a review site. But I was tired. So I decided to take a break. Not from NaNo--that's crazy talk--but from what I had to write. I dove into a project that had been calling to me for a while and wrote with gusto. It was another one that I finished drafting in December--and it was the longest book I'd ever written. But I was pretty sure it was unpublishable, so I shelved it. But I was renewed and got back to work with vigor. (Note: I plan to pull this one out as soon as i have a break in my schedule. I'm less convinced it's unpublishable now.)
Lesson learned in 2011: Every once in a while, it's okay to take the time to get your mojo back.

shhh...nothing to see here
2012 was the year of the sequel. This was another heavily prepped for book with much plotting and an index card board that looked like I'd lost my mind. But at this point, not only was I a professional who regularly wrote at well over the minimum daily word count, but I was also dealing with edits for other projects pouring in. It was a messy year and one I wasn't sure I'd finish. I plowed through anyway.
Lessons learned in 2012: Published authors don't get to coast through NaNo. Deadlines matter more, so words have to come in massive spurts when you can get them. Also? Sequels are hard for me to write. So are books with seven point-of-view characters. But if you're stubborn enough, you can do it all.

Now it's 2013, and I'm once again attempting a sequel--actually the last book in that series. Because of other projects, I didn't have time to plot it in advance, which is making me twitchy, and it feels way too much like that first year where I was desperately trying to figure things out as I went. Oh, and I have edits on two (or more) very important projects coming in the next few weeks. And my kitchen's being torn out and redone the week of Thanksgiving. There are still over three weeks of NaNo left, but I think this might be the year that beats me. Then again, it might be the year that I finally give into the need to project jump and just work on the book that is calling to me. I don't know. What I do know is NaNo is always an adventure, and there is always something to learn.
Lessons learned so far in 2013: Don't forget everything else you learned along the way. Sometimes, no matter how stubborn you are, you can't do it all. It's okay to step back and change course. 

Long story short? NaNoWriMo has taught me how to be a better author in the crazy world of modern publishing. The lessons, both big and small, have shaped me into who I am today. I'm pretty sure without the push of this event early on in my career path, I probably would have given up. So than you, NaNoWriMo. I couldn't have done it without you.

What about you? Have you learned anything by doing/attempting NaNo?


  1. This is my third year, but each year is different. Something new happens. Or the story comes differently. I jumped projects this year though. I started with a sequel and it wasn't hitting me. I felt like I was dragging my feet. So, I bailed. I did. I started another that just hit me, a fantasy where I can abuse people in a different way. I think that sequel is going to take more time for me to do then what Nano allows. But this new one...yea, it makes me smile. In the beginning I've...killed off a few already. ;) Love fantasy!

    Good luck to you Seleste. Hope things all come together and don't get to crazy for you.

    1. I bailed too. I started my "Dapper Gentleman" project last night. Hoping I can still make up the days I spent on Kiss of Eternity (It needs, not necessarily longer than NaNo, just less frantic than NaNo).

    2. I saw the quick thoughts on Facebook. Sounds good.

      This other idea's going to take me longer as it needs a bit more TLC as I go through it. *sigh* And Kiss of Eternity will turn out amazing when you get to it. :) I'm sure!

  2. Oh! I forgot to ask...about that cover. ;) Lovely. And who did you decide it might be?

    1. Oh you made a breathless pick. I have to agree. Mmm. He looks like a Max to me. ;D I think I like him more than the first cover, which works for me as I am a Max fan. lol. (note: not that the first cover guy is shabby looking AT ALL.) lol

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  4. I love NaNo! This is only my fourth year, but I've participated in Script Frenzy and Camp NaNo too, so that counts, right? In spite of the fact that I've been writing for decades, NaNo has really, really, improved my writing craft.

    Got a homophone in your lesson... You need the write story, in the right setting, with the right characters.

    1. D'oh! I think I'd started that sentence saying something else. This is but one reason a good editor is worth their weight in gold.


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