What I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo: Part 3

Hello and happy Wednesday!

We’re halfway through the last week of November… I’m not sure where the month has gone, but it’s certainly vanished quickly!  Counting today, there are only six days left before December, and only one before Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to a day of rest and reminders of everything we have to be thankful for.

One thing I’m thankful for this month is all the progress I’ve made on my NaNo novel! I actually reached 50,000 words last week – a feat I’m excited enough about – but my goal is to finish the entire rough draft in November. As of Sunday, it spanned about 57,000 words/8 chapters.

Can I finish four more chapters by the end of the month? I hope so! And if not, I’ve never written this much of a novel so quickly before, so I’m happy with what I’ve gotten done already.

The last two weeks I’ve shared six writing tips that have helped me to write faster and stay inspired. You can find each of those posts below:

What I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo: Part 1

What I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo: Part 2

This week, I’m back with three more things I’ve learned about writing; things focused on assistance in the midst of these final NaNo weeks. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

1. Write What You Write Best

Every author has their own strengths when it comes to writing. Some authors are amazing at action. Others churn out hilarious humor. Yet others can craft beautiful descriptions without effort.

Off the top of my head, I can think of many authors who possess these strengths. I’ve never excelled at any of them. But everyone has something that feels natural to write. Easy. Comfortable. Even fun.

For me, it’s dialog. I’m never happier than when I get to write scenes comprised largely of conversations, banter, and even the occasional villainous monologue (because every book needs those, don’t they? Just kidding.).

One of the goals on my writing ‘bucket list’ is to write an entire novel with only dialog. Would it be any good? I’m not sure, but I would definitely enjoy writing it.

And that’s the key. When you enjoy writing something, it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s not hard to stay motivated when you’re excited to return to your story so you can write more of that…whatever it is you especially enjoy.

Though I’m working hard to improve the other aspects of my writing, such as action, humor, and descriptions, they just don’t excite me as much as dialog. The scenes without dialog are the hardest for me to write.

So what I’ve started doing when I struggle to stay motivated to write, is to ease up on those other areas and focus more on the one I enjoy. If I don’t know where to go in a scene, I won’t think about the other parts yet. I’ll just go through and write the dialog and skeleton descriptions; just enough to keep track of who’s where and what’s going on, but not enough to bog me down.

Once I get past the tricky spot, I’ll resume a more balanced approach, but that strategy works well for the places I’m really struggling. Of course I’ll need to come back and round out the scene later, and I leave myself notes in my ‘Fix Later’ document to do so. But giving myself permission to not worry about it for now is very freeing, and helps my creativity flow and my story progress.

I’ve always found it easier to add more descriptions, tenser action, deeper character development, and snappier humor on later drafts of a novel. That’s what rewrites are for, aren’t they?

So what do you write best? What area of writing makes you feel at home? When are you most comfortable with your own writing?

Once you figure that out (and it’s not usually too hard to do), try focusing on it the next time you’re struggling with a scene. You can – and should – come back later, but for now, while you focus on churning out as much of a story as fast as you possibly can, don’t stress over it. It’ll all come together in the end.

2. Don’t Compare

It’s all too easy for me to look at other writers and start comparing myself to them. Every aspect of my writing is held up against theirs. My wordcount, my genre, my characters, my writing routine….everything.

Do I measure up? Am I as talented as they are? How do they write so many more words than I can? Why can’t my characters, or story world, or plot be as good as theirs?

It’s exhausting, discouraging, and the exact opposite of what I should be doing.

Maybe you relate.

It’s always worse once I reach a certain point in my manuscripts. Usually a little over halfway through, when my initial zeal has waned enough for me to read back and realize just how rough my rough draft is.

In contrast, the drafts of other writers seem so much better in every way. Perfect even.

Of course, that’s not true. Every writer has their own struggles and every manuscript has its own flaws. Quantity does not always equal quality…but a lengthy book means the author isn’t procrastinating. Every writing issue has two sides. They’re impossible to compare equally, just as it’s impossible to compare apples and carrots equally. Who’s to say which is better? Both have their own unique qualities and benefits.

So why even try to compare?

Every writer has their strengths, and every manuscript has its strong points. It’s usually hardest to see where you shine brightest, especially when you’re already tired and overwhelmed by the writing process. But those strong points are there. Trust me.

You are you. And praise the Lord for that! No one else can write like you do. No one else can tell the stories you tell. No one else can bring the perspective you bring, or speak to the hearts of readers in the ways you can.

Don’t be discouraged by how rough your story feels right now. It’s a rough draft. There’s never been a writer who can crank out a perfect story on the first try. Or ever, for that matter – and that’s okay! A story doesn’t have to be perfect to be incredible. It doesn’t have to be the best novel ever written to be worth sharing. If you put your heart into writing it, it will touch the hearts of others too.

The next time you start comparing yourself to another writer, or your story to another story: stop. Remind yourself that nothing good will come from comparing apples to carrots, and remember that every author’s writing journey will look different. Every story is unique, and brings its own special impact on the world. Mine will. Yours will. Always.

I’m learning to sit back and be happy for other authors’ accomplishments, while still enjoying my own. Without comparing the two. The difference it makes is huge.

3. It’s Okay to Take a Break

“What? I thought this was a post about writing more!”

If that’s what you’re thinking, okay – you’ve caught me. It’s not a direct writing tip.

However.

It’s impossible to write when you don’t feel well. Or nearly impossible, at least. There comes a point when your body, mind, and emotions just need a break from staring at a screen, struggling to come up with action beats and descriptions. It’s not usually hard to tell when you reach this point.

This past week has been difficult for me, writing-wise. The first two seemed like a piece of cake. I thought maybe I’d crash during week two, but not so. My energy, productivity, and upbeat attitude remained strong. And then last week began, and I found myself spending more and more time with still fingers and a tired mind.

Instead of being excited to work on my novel, I dreaded the words I knew I still needed to write. When I forced myself to sit down and work, my wordcount suffered. I’d only write – if I was lucky – half as much as I could in the same amount of time before. That would discourage me further, and the cycle just continued, leaving me to wonder where all my energy went and what was wrong with me.

I needed a break.

Once this occurred to me, I resisted it as whole-heartedly as I could. How would stopping help my wordcount? Better to power through the chapters, even if I don’t enjoy a second of it, than to ignore them. Right?

Well, I finally let myself take that break when an hour of focused writing time – which usually yields 1,000 -2,000 words – only produced about 400. I was exhausted and discouraged and my mind was screaming for something else. Something relaxing and different. Something refreshing.

So I curled up on my bed and read an adventure novel. The next day, after a good night’s sleep, I got up and wrote 4,000 words. Easily. I enjoyed the process and it only took me a couple of hours. I felt energized, refreshed, and ready to jump back into my story.

Don’t be afraid to step away from the computer, or the notebook, or the phone, and just take a break. Let yourself rest. Find something different that you enjoy doing and let yourself enjoy it.

Something that still allows your mind to be creative, such as reading a book, drawing a picture, or watching a movie, is even better. You’ll get your rest and your mind will be refilled with ideas, and the next time you sit down to write, story will flow so much easier.

I still resist these breaks far too often, because I don’t like to lose my ‘productive time’. And of course, if you’re spending more time taking breaks than you are actually writing, it might be best to re-examine yourself. Don’t let your rest turn into procrastination. But do rest. You need it.

And really, if you can spend two hours staring at a screen and write 500 words, or spend an hour reading your favorite novel and then an hour at the computer again and write 500 words, how was your time better spent?

Let your body and mind have the rest they need. I think you’ll find, as I have, that you’ll be glad you did.

Well, those are three more of the things I’ve found helpful to me during NaNoWriMo so far. I hope my discoveries are useful to you as well, and I also hope you feel encouraged today, no matter where you are in your writing journey. You’re doing so well. Any and all progress is worthy of celebration!

I’ll be back next week with an overview of my NaNo experience. And in the meantime…off I go to – hopefully – finish my novel!

What’s something that helps you write? Do you have go-to methods for balancing productivity and rest? Please share your favorite tips and strategies in the comments below. I’d love to hear your advice!

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Published by E. G. Bella

E. G. Bella is a bookworm turned author with a passion for cheesy puns, colorful characters, and contagious faith. Unlike most of her characters, she comes from a warm and loving home, and actually enjoys getting up with the sun. She writes in a wide variety of genres, crafting memorable, page-turning tales the whole family can enjoy.

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