November 1, 2012

What NaNoWriMo Taught Me

By Jill Weatherholt

My first experience with NaNoWriMo was November 2010.  Now, almost two years later I have learned a lot about honing the craft and I find myself excited as National Novel Writing Month approaches.  Participating in NaNoWriMo taught me things I didn't know about myself and how my thoughts can determine if I succeed or fail.
NaNoWriMo is a writing contest held each November.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Of course, 50,000 words isn't a complete novel, but it's a good start.  In order to accomplish this, you must turn off your inner editor and write.  Get the words on the page and in thirty days, you have a start to a rough first draft.  “Rough" is a nice way to say, it's going to be bad.  However, I discovered bad can sometimes be good.  

Through NaNoWriMo, I learned I have untapped potential and only I can tap into it.  I broke down my daily word count into 1666 words per day and began tapping.  I had no outline, no major events, no plot points and no characters.  Two years later, I can admit, I made up the story as I went along, but that was ok.  There are no rules in NaNoWriMo, only to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It was liberating.  At the end of my first day, the sense of accomplishment I experienced was indescribable.  I knew if I could meet my goal on day one, there was no reason I couldn't continue the momentum for the next 29 days.  Or could I?

I learned I'm stronger than I think I am.  I was reminded of this when I came home exhausted after a hectic day at the office.  There were bills to be paid and a Leaning Tower of Pisa laundry basket.  To add insult to injury, I sometimes had over 2500 words to write because I was lazy the previous day.  One thing I knew for sure was, if I fell too far behind, I would fail.  Despite the obstacles, I wrote, even when my brain didn't contain one ounce of creative juice. Afterward, I felt great and ready to write more words.

The final thing NaNoWriMo taught me was to never say never.  I'll never make it through the first week, but I did.  I'll never stick with this for 30 days, but I did.  I'll never reach the end of my first draft, but I did.  I'll never be published, but I was. My NANO project wasn't published.  I did complete the story, but it's still in the editing process.  However, with each page I edit, comes the realization of how far I've come.

In 2011, I found myself unemployed after my company was closed by our cooperate office.  It was a challenging time in my life that left me with little time to write, so I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo. This year is another story.  I've been blessed with a terrific job and I have every intention of pounding out my second rough draft novel in thirty days, because I learned, even if it's bad, through hours of editing, it can become good.
My name is Jill Weatherholt and I'm a writer, living in Charlotte, NC. I'm a graduate of George Mason University and have from Duke University a Paralegal Certification. I have a full time job, but write at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I love books, perusing author websites, blogs about writing and most importantly, writing. I'm a 2010 NaNoWriMo winner and a Southern Writers Magazine, contest runner-up. My blog, as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers.

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