5 Things I Learned From Winning NanoWrimo

I’ve been writing since I was 9. I finished my first novel at 14. I queried my second novel at 18.

I have never, ever won at Nano. I have tried, for three years running, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally cracked it. And here’s the weird thing:

I don’t feel like I so much as broke a sweat.

I mean sure, I got frustrated as hell with my writing. There are a few chapters that are going to need some heavy revision and a few that I just didn’t even bother with, that were cut before I could even consider writing them in because my fucking teenagers got in the way of the plot but that’s besides the point. I wrote it–it’s there. I only have four more chapters to write till that 1st draft is done. Then I can pull it apart and reshape and refine it into exactly what I want it to be.

Here’s what I learned in defeating the great NanoWrimo monster:


  1. Hydration is Key. If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll have no fucking attention span. You’ll check your word count in an hour and go “Why the fuck is it only at 222 words?!” Drink fucking water. And tea. Not caffeine tea, herbal. I do a lot of peppermint, lemon green, and the Kava Stress Relief. More water = more words.
  2. Tune in, Tune Out, Explode. Put music on, use ear plugs, whatever you have to do, but you have to Escape The Known World. Recent events of a hellish nature have made this especially hard for people; nearly all of my Nano writing group dropped immediately following the election. And that’s fair. You have to take care of yourself first. But my noggin is a strange beast. Writing was my escape during my abusive childhood and still is today. When I feel stressed, I write. When I’m afraid, I write. When I’m terrified, I write. So I wrote like a fucking hurricane with the typing speed of a demon. My brain likes to turn tail and run, and I allowed it to pull me along like my family pitbull at the beach. Stay away from the news, and dive into the book. You will not drown.
  3. Sprint If You Can. I can write 5k and up in a day and not get burned out. Thank fuck, because I have to up my writing schedule like hell next year. This year was the Trial and Error year for me, since last year I got nothing fucking finished and felt awful about it. So I went into 2016 with the goal of Okay Dipshit, Just Finish One Book. This is a lot for me, it normally takes me 2-3 years from outline to revision to finish a damn book. And I’m going to be pushing the envelope to the seams next year with my 2+2 schedule: two novels and two novellas, every year to follow. Because that’s the only way I’m going to make decent progress before I turn 50. Find your pace and maintain it, as best you can, even when the words suck.
  4. Just Say ‘Fuck It.’ A lot. There are a lot of chapters that I am going to have to go through and add A Bunch Of Shit. I was ashamed, and then I remembered, that’s how my southern urban fantasy came out. That’s what happens when I speed-write, I often get too caught up in character to flush out the setting. Not huge as far as intial revisions go, but its vital. Still, not stressful. Less stressful than looking at my Scrivener project sitting at only 25k and going ITS BEEN THREE YEARS WHY IS THIS LIKE WHY. So, yeah. Just say fuck it a whole lot. ‘Fuck it, I will fix it in post’ has become my mantra.
  5. Groups Help. This year was my first year really getting involved in the writing community with Actual Writing, not just going to cons and meeting people and shooting the shit about publishing and pimping myself as an editor. Communities as craft work, and connecting with others about how we Do The Art and then doing the art together was a huge source of comfort and inspiration to me. And I need that. I need art friends to remind me that it is okay to take time to myself and I have nothing to be ashamed of for needing a lot of alone time to do this work and do it well.

So, there you have it. How I slew the great NanoWrimo beast and learned to just write the fucking words and not be afraid of the bomb, er, book. As winter is coming, think about how you can apply yourself in the coming months to keep doing The Writing Thing. Make your cave, find your people, stay hydrated, and just write the damn book.

I will be in my cave, doing the very same.

With a lot of tea and a very demanding cat.


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