Jan-No-Wri-Mo: Lessons

Well, I did it. 51,154 words in the end. There was actually no point at which I didn’t think I’d make it – I’m far too pig-headed for that. When I promise myself that I’m going to do something, I do it. Which is not always a good thing…

I don’t think JanNoWriMo (or any WriMo for that matter) is a good way to write a novel. It is a fantastic way to get a novel finished, but if you don’t know exactly what is going to happen in your novel (and even my most planned novels end up going in different directions to what I expect) then I think you can hurt the story.

There were seven days in the month when I did no writing at all, and all of them happened when I didn’t know what should happen next. I had nearly three days (the short writing day happened here) where I spent quite a few hours brainstorming all the directions the story could head in. Then I picked one. Was it the right one? I don’t know. In real life I probably would have ruminated over the decision for at least a week. I didn’t like JanNoWriMo on that day.

But it wasn’t all bad. I discovered that early morning walks are fantastic for drawing out ideas. I would set off and couldn’t come home again until I knew what I was writing that day. Some walks went for 20 mins, some for over an hour. All of them got me a little bit fitter too, which is always good. It’s something I’m going to try and keep up.

The other thing I learned was that when you get creative in one area, it makes you start getting creative in other areas. Now, I wasn’t working, so maybe that figured into things too, but I did more elaborate cooking, took loads of photos, was out in the garden, and even managed all my TotalGym sessions without the usual torpor. I know that is one of the tricks you learn in Maximum Willpower; that once you start getting motivated in one area, you get motivated in others as well, but I didn’t even know I wanted to do all these other things.

Now I’m feeling a bit bereft. I’m writing this on the morning of February 2nd because it feels wrong not to be at the computer. When I finish this post I’m going to head out for a walk and see if I can come up with a short story idea. I need to be writing.

And I’m sure novelists can relate to this; I’m also sad. I spent such an intensive month with my characters and now they are all gone. I miss them terribly. Sadly, experience tells me that editing won’t bring them closer in the same way. Maybe that’s why my brain is already working on the final novel in the trilogy?

So, I guess the big question is; will I do another WriMo? I am interested to try JuneNoWriMo, because it’s got to be easier to write in the cool weather. 40°C days are torture at the computer. But I’m going to have a range of projects to work on. I think I could bash out 50K of short stories without running into the same problems that I hit with the novel. Let’s see, I’ve got a few months to decide yet.


Number of days out of 31 that I wrote: 24 days
Average session: 2,131 words
Biggest writing day: 5,198 words
Smallest writing day: 712 words

4 thoughts on “Jan-No-Wri-Mo: Lessons”

  1. Hey Nat
    I have just started reading ‘When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing’ and it starts out by discussing when, during the day, people are up and down. They found that, almost universally, people’s emotional state and decision making capability improved during the morning peaking at lunch. Everything then takes a dive, improving again into the evening. Mornings are the best time to make important decisions. They also found that creativity follows the opposite pattern and logic goes out the window later in the day.
    When did you find was the best time to get your story together?

  2. Well congratulations are in order Nat, good work in belting out the novel. If walking was good for the first draft, then maybe running would help the editing? Just kidding. 🙂 Keep enjoying the delightful early mornings the Adelaide Hills offer in abundance.

  3. Hi Kym,
    I actually find that the project determines when I find it best to write. Most of my stories are morning projects, which I work on from 8am. This recent novel was very different in that I just didn’t seem to be able to get started on it until after lunch each day. Recently I started writing a really dark novella that I could only write at night. So for me it isn’t really cut and dried. I’m about to start a new project, so I’m interested to see what time of day it calls me to the computer.

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