Analyzing NaNoWriMo Lessons Learned

As I type this, NaNoWriMo 2016 moves into its final hours.  Some of you who participated have completed your word count and downloaded your winner’s certificate.  Others are manically pounding the keyboard, determined to beat the midnight deadline.  And many are nowhere near 50,000 words and have given up hope of flaunting a winner’s T-shirt.

No matter which category you fall into, there are lessons you’ve learned while working on your manuscript.  Yes, even while you focused entirely on creating a 30-day masterpiece, your writer’s mind absorbed information you can use forever.

It’s Always Who, What, When, Where, How, Why

You’re scratching your head, wondering why I’m taking you back to basic writing.  Because you can define everything you take away from your efforts in one of these boxes.


Who Are You as a Writer?

What gets your creative juices flowing?  Are you all about the adventure of writing?  Pitting yourself against a target (50K words in 30 days)?  Or do you revel in the comfort of knowing exactly what you’ll be doing each day?  Are you slow and steady or rush through in as few sittings as possible?

Now ask yourself: How did that energy level feel for you?  Did you get a headache every time you thought of the number of words you still needed?  Or did you feel confident and excited as you progressed each day?  What changes in your writing routine might be inspired by this NaNo challenge?


What Got You to the Keyboard Each Day?

Once you signed up and the NaNo challenge began, did you find it hard to remain motivated?  What inspired you to return to your manuscript even when you fell days behind?

Did you promise yourself a daily or weekly reward?  Did you imagine one fantastic gift to yourself that you couldn’t open until you reached 50,000 words?  Or did you armor yourself with dreams of fame and fans awaiting the product of your effort?  Did you create a progression chart and triumphantly mark off each day’s word count?

Now ask yourself:  How will you use this motivation to maintain your writing habit through the entire coming year?


When Did You Know You Were Acing This Challenge?

Were you so confident at the stroke of midnight, on November 1, that you knew you would blaze through your word count with no problems?  Or was it only as you watched the last few words fall from your fingers onto the page that you breathed a sigh of accomplishment?

Now ask yourself: How much confidence have you gained over the past thirty days that you can meet deadlines?  How will you use that confidence to build on your writing career?


Where Will Your Victory Over This Challenge Take You?

You say, “But I didn’t even finish the challenge.”  I disagree.  You showed up and made an effort.  Life gets in the way, contest, editor’s deadline, or publishing launch.  We never get it perfect.  But we show up and do the best we can.

Wrap that in a bow and gift yourself with the knowledge that you are working toward your goal.  Even when you’re flat on your back, downing antibiotics while your mother-in-law assumes command of your kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner.  While you’re lying on the couch, wondering if you’ll ever find anything in your cabinets again, allow yourself to discover the story in what’s going on.  See, I told you you’re working on your writing.

Now ask yourself: What plans can you put in place while writing is flowing that will help you keep writing when life throws a tsunami at you?


How Do You Feel Now That It’s Over?

Are you eager to show up first thing the morning of December 1 and whip out ten more pages?  Or do you feel the need for some time disconnected from your manuscript?  Time to absorb what you’ve accomplished?

Now ask yourself: Have you been paying attention to what your body wants you to know?  Does it want you to get outside, to exercise, to enjoy family time?  Listen carefully, and do what feels best for you.  That’s the way you keep your physical strength up so you can keep writing.


Why Do You Feel Let Down When It’s Over?

Because it’s such a rush to participate in a worldwide effort.  It’s an adventure of discovering your ability to concentrate on a goal and crush it.  And though you don’t have to measure yourself against other writers, you know you pay attention to how they’re getting on.  And you become motivated to reach new heights when you see someone blazing a trail ahead of you.

Once the challenge is over, you know the real world will intrude again. Kids still need to be carpooled somewhere every day.  The boss wants you to work late for the next month.  And your spouse is more than ready for you to come out of your locked writing retreat and take the dog to the vet, shovel the snow, and get back to your ordinary life.

Now ask yourself: If you don’t have the excuse of NaNoWriMo to hole up and write, are you doomed never to reach your writing goals?  Not a bit!

Go back over the answers you gave for each of the above questions.  Observe the ways you’ve found to acknowledge your commitment and tenacity.  Celebrate what you’ve learned in this NaNoWriMo challenge.  And enjoy every new word you put on the page.  You’ve got this.


If you’d like to work with me this year, I have one spot open through the end of the year.  Email me at and let’s start a conversation about how I may help you attain your writing dreams.