I haven’t been a very good or attentive blogger lately. Apologies. However, some good news! Hear ye, hear ye! On November 30, with 1.5 hours to go until midnight, I reached the 50,000 word goal of NaNoWriMo!

Now, this might not seem like a big deal to many people, but for me, this is huge! I have participated in NaNo since 2001. That is 13 years (I’m almost to the point where I have participated in NaNo more years than I haven’t). It was my freshman year of college the first time I tried. I had an idea of a setting, a few strange rules for it, and a main character who existed despite those rules. This, apparently, is not enough of a premise for me to write a novel. In 2006, I came closer than I ever had before. I was a few thousand words short on November 30, and then my story ended. There was no more to write, and not enough time to add words through editing. In the years that I have participated in NaNo I have written anywhere from 200 to over 45,000 words. Last year, I decided I wasn’t even going to try. This year, I won!

Now, I’m fairly certain that I am going to cut the first 30,000 words, and my story is nowhere near done. My next goal will be to finish the first draft. But I reached 50,000, and that’s more than I’ve written on one project, ever! I’m going to take some time away from the story and think about what is working and what isn’t. I’ve learned a few things this year, and having so many failures to compare it to, I know what aspects made it work this year.

1. I need an idea where my story is going next, or I will get stuck, possibly for days at a time. A full outline, however, will only hinder me and take away the fun of discovering the story with my characters.

2. It’s ok to take a few days off. I’ve tried in the past to not let the word count discourage me. I think the difference this year is that I put a lot less pressure on myself to win.

3. If you are going to take time off, be willing to spend hours just sitting in front of the screen later. Plan full days of nothing but writing.

4. Keeping the screen open to my project at almost all times made it more likely that I would tap out a few words during commercials or just randomly throughout the evening.

5. Write the scenes that you know you will edit out. There is information in those scenes that you might need to make something better later. Back story, side quests, rambling stream-of-consciousness scenes, dream sequences, random memory flashbacks. All of these things lead to better characters and better plot, so write it all down! All the words count in November, not just the “good” ones.

6. Winner goodies are awesome! I ordered my winner’s shirt. I also ordered myself an early Christmas gift: Scrivener at half off! I think this is one of the things that motivated me so well this year. I’ve fallen in love with Scrivener over the past few NaNos through their trial offer, but really wanted to own my own copy, so I could do crazy things like use it all year-long.

In the 18 days since I won, I’ve decided where my story should actually start (as I thought, about 30,000 words in). I’ve decided that much of the quest my characters are on is crap, but the things they learn on the quest are good. Also, it needs more of a cabaret feel to it. So, starting in two weeks, I’m going to try to fix those things and have a first draft ready by my birthday.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did you do? Did you learn anything new about your process?