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  • Writer's pictureAnanya Ridenour

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

I have heard of NaNoWriMo for years and always wanted to participate but never took the leap. In the past, I always made excuses of being too busy and maybe next year I would join in the writing challenge. However, this year was different. This became one of the busiest Novembers as of late and yet I still decided to try my hand at finishing a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month. A daunting task for sure and one that I was not sure that I could accomplish.

My 8 year old daughter, Sydney, heard me talking about NaNoWriMo and wanted to partake too. Surprised by her interest, but wanting to encourage her, we registered her as well with NaNoWriMo but through the Young Writer’s Program. She was extremely excited to join me on this writing journey.

When I started, I did have a story in mind but I had not done any prep work or outlining. I learned very quickly that this exercise was all about the story. It was not about grammar, punctuation, or even sentence structure. At first, I had a difficult time as I wanted to go backwards and change things, either sentences or even concepts. However, I kept on telling myself to move forward and not backwards. The goal was to get the words up on the page, to get the initial thoughts of the story written down. The novel would come later with expansion of ideas, punctuation and structure.

This became very freeing to me. I could just throw up words on a page and create the story. Whatever came to mind at that moment, I could put it in and just let the words flow. I really enjoyed this process and discovered that I was having fun too with this exercise.

My favorite part to writing a novel has always been creating the initial story. I love to get engulfed in the world that I create and enjoy watching the characters come to life. It is as if a movie is inside my head and scenes come and go. The challenge, though, is to be able get these “scenes” onto paper and in written word.

A question I have asked myself is, “Can I actually write every day?” I never knew if I could do that. I always tell myself that I would like to do that but was not exactly sure I had the capability and mental resilience. I learned from NaNoWriMo that I could write each day, that I could be disciplined enough to write on a consistent basis.

I was also able to discover that I could write directly onto a computer vs writing by hand. This will not be important to many others, but it is for me. For my first novel, Skipping Stones, I actually wrote the first 25,000 words by hand. Unusual, I know, and my husband, Brett always makes fun of me for writing this way. For NaNoWriMo though, I knew I needed to bypass the extra step and write directly into the computer to let the words flow there instead of on paper.

I think, most importantly, I learned that I could accomplish a daunting task if I decided to set my mind to it. I had to be focused and committed to achieving the goal that was before me. I was very fortunate to have so many people support me through this writing challenge. I think support is key in order to stay motivated, keep focused, and reach the end goal.

In case anyone was interested, both my daughter and I were able to accomplish our respective goals for writing a novel for the month of November.

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