Looking Back to NaNoWrimo

That thing where I am probably reading too much into a small sample size, and then handing out that information as advice.

A month has passed now since I undertook my own version of the NaNoWriMo challenge — writing and publishing over 50,000 words to this very site for the month of November. At the end of it I wrote a bit about the experience, but I don’t think it is until just now that I fully am able to realize the impact it had on me in a more long term sense. It hasn’t made me a better, or worse, writer — that’s all status quo. It has, however, helped my writing come far easier.

The constant complaint I hear from people when I encourage them to write is: but when? Where do they find the time, or the topics, or anything else to write about. Topics has always been easy for me, it’s the time that has been the hardest. With NaNoWriMo I had the goal of publishing something 1,500 words in length every day during the month. It was a challenge to do that for maybe 5 days. After that it was a piece of cake to do that in 2 hours. And often I wrote far more than 1,500 words.

I had conditioned myself to be able to sit down, write, and coherently get the thoughts out of my head and onto the page.

And that is the biggest win for me. I wrote a few things after NaNoWriMo where I thought I had fewer than 1,000 words to say, but they ended up being much longer than that by the time I got done. Not because I found a sudden surge of inspiration, but because I found my thoughts pouring onto that page far easier than ever before.

The habit was built.

And none of this is new. It’s some of the oldest writing advice out there: write everyday for at least X time.

But I think that is only half of the advice which should be given. I think you need to write that much and publish that much. Because it is far too easy to set aside something you are writing and never come back to it. You therefore could write every day for two hours and never have anything to show for it, aside from a bunch of first drafts. And that’s a good way to burn out and be discouraged.

The art of writing really is in the edit of the work, not the first draft. My advice, and what I am attempting to do for myself:

  1. Write everyday for 1 hour. For me that can yield anywhere from 500-2,000 words.
  2. Set a date to publish each article you are writing.
  3. Edit each article 3 days before publishing is due, and 1 day before publishing is due. This gives me two solid edits with enough of a break that I am coming back to the post without already knowing every thing I said. Giving me the ability to be able to be confused by my own writing and then attempt to fix the confusion.
  4. Publish it, or delete it, on the day it is due. If the due date comes and I am not ready to publish, then I will never be ready to publish. So I delete the draft. If I want the idea back: I rewrite from scratch.

That method should greatly increase my output for 2016, and still be sustainable for the entire year. My goal is two articles a week, every week.

The beauty of that system for anyone not yet in the writing habit is that it will do three things:

  • Get you writing
  • Get you editing
  • Get you publishing

All while taking very little of your time. Even if all you can do is find 30 minutes during lunch to write, 5 days a week, and publish just one thing every 2-3 weeks — you will be amazed how much that will help you. It may take you over a week to get something written that is ready to be published on the first try, but that will speed up with each passing day.

The big miss with most of the writing advice I see is that the writings are never shared or put out there for public scrutiny. Which ultimately means you can’t grow and learn and instead are never sure if what you are writing is good or not. And you need to show that work to someone who can and will be honest so that you can get that feedback.

Without feedback you are writing to no one, and there’s little point to that. Writing everyday is perfect advice, but all that writing is wasted if you never share it.

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