I’d like everyone to absorb that sentence for a moment before breathing a sigh of relief and looking to the future where something like normality might finally lie. For those who have taken part I give you a hearty congratulations, regardless of word count, just taking the time to try this mad little event is worthy of applause, and possibly some kind of medal to indicate a mixture of bravery and insanity. This article is not only a medal ceremony it is also a chance to look to future contests, to see what could be improved ahead of time, and to notice what worked well for you during this year’s contest. So let’s look into this, shall we.
You didn’t write: Now, I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning if you didn’t write in this years’ NaNo it isn’t a bad thing, not even a little bit. The contest and the word limit can be very intimidating, and with all the other challenges that come from life it is often an insurmountable task. However, next year it might be worth, at the very least, dipping your toes in. If you join in NaNo for one day and meet that day’s word limit then that is a good start. Even if you write only one day out of the thirty, I would still encourage you to join each year. Maybe you are unsure about writing itself, in which case join in all the antics on the forum, drink in the inspiration that flows around the thousands of other writers that this contest attracts, find encouragement from them, and give them encouragement when NaNo fatigue starts to set in. My other piece of advice would be to consider the camps at the beginning of the year. These are much smaller challenges, and you can set your own word limit. 5000 is much less intimidating than the full amount but no less of an achievement. Consider joining these smaller challenges to get your confidence up and maybe when next year rolls around you will have more confidence for the big event.
You wrote but didn’t reach the limit: I suspect this will be the case for a lot of us, and I implore you not to get disheartened. As I have already mentioned this is a very challenging event and being brave enough to participate is excellent. My tips for meeting the word-count would depend on your situation. If work or family responsibilities leave you without enough writing time then maybe set yourself a personal goal, that way even if you can’t meet the full 50 you will still have the encouragement of knowing you’re close to one of your goals. If inspiration is your nemesis then I would recommend the forums once more. Word wars are a personal favourite of mine but just surrounding yourself with other writers can provide inspiration aplenty, and maybe one of them has just the idea to solve your current block. Finally, if finding the focus to sit down and write is a problem, and I know this strikes a lot of us, then I would recommend switching off the internet. Take yourself somewhere where there’s less temptation, find a quiet little corner of the world each day and see what inspiration strikes you. Practice is what will save you while writing, so never stop and don’t get disheartened if you don’t meet one goal, the act of writing is achievement enough.
You wrote 50,000 words: congratulations, you have made it to the finish line. For those writers in this group, I would caution against getting comfortable. Look back on your experience: were there any days you struggled, did a lack of notes leave you uncertain where to proceed at a certain point, and how did you balance your life alongside this challenge. This is an amazing achievement for you, but it is also and excellent learning opportunity to learn what works for you, as a writer, and what might have tripped you up in places. I would always advise anyone who might listen to never stop learning, to never stop improving, and of course, to never stop writing. The path of an author is a difficult one, but challenges like this can teach us a lot about ourselves that we may well find useful for future endeavours.
I think I’ve written enough for one day. For those who have been following me I am happy to report I have crossed the finishing line. I hope you took something away from this article, and I look forward to seeing many of you again next year.