The below is another guest post, this one from Nasim Mansuri!
What I learned from the years I did NaNoWrimo (and from the years I didn’t)
I wrote my first novel ever during November 2008. I was twelve years old.
When I decided to take on the challenge, I did it mainly to prove that when I said ‘When I grow up I want to be a writer’ I actually meant it. I quickly immersed myself in the forums, and after deciding on a fantasy novel that involved travelling, metaphors and a unicorn, I wrote it.
I learned that it is possible to come up with an idea only a few days before you begin to write it, and succeed. I learned that it doesn’t take a wise person with decades of accumulated experience to write a novel. Becoming a successful novelist isn’t really a distant, unattainable goal; in fact, successful novelists themselves aren’t really that distant: names I recognized from bookstores popped up in pep talks, and many of the people I spoke to in the forums had links to their latest published novel in their profile.
In 2008, I learned that I can write a novel in 30 days, and more importantly: I can become a novelist.
By the time October came around the corner, I was already in full novel-planning mode. I was itching to write, so when the clock hit midnight and October ended, I hit the ground running.
I quickly realized just how useful it is to outline your plot. I knew where the story was going, and I had time to focus on small details like foreshadowing and what color the main character’s bedroom would be.
I discovered a pattern:
In 2009, I established a method to my writing which I continue to employ with everything I write.
I had a story which had been floating around in my head for over a year, and it was epic, with hundreds of characters that had to be rendered perfectly for the story to work.
I felt like my plot had only just been born, and it wasn’t ready to be written.
So I didn’t write it.
In 2010, I learned that sometimes just have to wait for the story to be ready.
I decided I was going to write it.
I plunged into preparation, or as I had begun to call it, thanks to twitter, #NaNoPrep.
Twitter meant that I could find writing buddies just by searching #NaNoWriMo. I discovered @NaNoWordSprints, which got me through the worst of my second-to-third-week’s writer’s block. I met people on MSN Messenger and we had word wars. This was a community, and it was a supportive one.
This realization took me to hundreds of people’s profiles and blogs, where I learned so much more about an art that I was only beginning to understand. There were so many different resources, and even just tweeting ‘I don’t think I can write 500 more words’ brought in encouraging messages from writers around the globe.
In 2011, I learned that I don’t have to do this writing thing alone. In fact, I can’t do it alone.
I cheated by continuing my 2011 winning novel, and I quickly put in practice all the things I had learned the years before. I told as many people as I could about it.
And I learned something else: writing a novel gives you power.
People listen to a person who has written a book, because you have proven that you really do have something to say.
At the age of sixteen, I suddenly discovered that people around me actually wanted to hear what I had to share. They wanted to learn how someone like me, who was ridiculously young and hadn’t even graduated from high school yet, could write three full-length novels.
I began to understand the impact that my hobby could have on the world around me. This career could give me a voice, and I would have to put that voice to good use.
In 2012, I learned that being a successful novelist and being a published novelist doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing. One can be either… or one can be both.
I didn’t write a novel. I didn’t have a story, but I did have a staggering amount of other things occupying my mind and time.
However, in the long gap between November 2013 and November 2014 I invested my time in learning how to write in my own time, when the pressure and excitement of NaNoWriMo wasn’t on my shoulders. I helped my fellow Wrimos edit their novels, and doing so taught me how to spot things that needed to be corrected or reworded. This, in turn, improved my own writing, and I taught myself to be disciplined with what I did.
In 2013 I learned that you don’t have to write a new novel to improve your novel-writing-skills.
Suddenly, this year, nothing works for me. Outlining doesn’t seem to work, I have yet to properly do a Word Sprint, and I’ve even started questioning if I’m capable of writing this novel.
Why am I suddenly incapable of doing things I’ve done nearly every year? What’s wrong with me?
In 2014, I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what you did last year. There are no formulas when it comes to writing.
I could sit here and write a ton of advice, saying this-and-that worked for me… but in the end, you’re the one that has to discover what works for you. Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you do better under pressure or on your own time? Are you going to write professionally or not? Do you let others read your work or do you guard it all very carefully? What genre is your genre? Coffee or tea?
Every year is different, so the answers to these questions will change with every novel you write. And that’s okay.
That’s NaNoWriMo. That’s writing.
Nasim Mansuri is currently working on an alternate history science fiction mystery novel. Originally from Paraguay yet currently volunteering on the other side of the globe, she is an avid reader and writer of both original fiction and fan fiction. You’re welcome to contact her through her blog (http://nasimmansuri.wordpress.com/) and/or her twitter (https://twitter.com/nasimwrites).
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