Thursday, December 2, 2010

What You Can Learn from NaNoWriMo Participants

National Novel Writing Month ended on Tuesday night. Those of us who were NaNoWriMo winners finished writing our 50,000-word novels in a month or less. But all of us who wrote are winners. Anyone who did their best to amass a crazy amount of words in a month is a winner to me. Congratulations.

Several years ago, I interviewed NaNoWriMo Winners by email. Every writer can learn something from the success of these writers. Here are my favorite tips:

1. Busy is not an excuse. In fact, many of the NaNoWriMo Winners keep  chaotic schedules. Winner Elizabeth McKinney from Winston-Salem wrote her novel while also writing professionally for her full-time job. Winner Nicole Gustasa from California said, “Not only did I finish National Novel Writing Month last year, but I did it while I was moving, finalizing my divorce and working a 60-hour a week job!” Never whine about being too busy to write. If you want to write, you’ll find time to write.

2. No MFA? No problem. Many of the wannabe writers I meet put off their  writing careers until they can get more education or experience. Don’t wait.  Educate yourself by reading and attending workshops. Get experience by writing.  Winner Susan Drolet said, “When I actually finished an entire novel, I realized  that you don't have to be a professional writer or have a degree in journalism to put words together to make a coherent story. I am so proud of my accomplishment!” 

3. Success creates success. All the NaNoWriMo winners I talked to were proud of their 50,000-word accomplishments—and they should be. NaNoWriMo success boosted the winners’ writing confidence and spilled over into other areas as well. Winner Kristine Augustyn said, Because I actually completed the novel I feel that I can do many more things. It has given me greater confidence and inspiration and in turn I have inspired others to try things. Kristine gained the confidence to start a new business, Badge of Intent. For me, the discipline of writing supported my daily discipline of walking. 

You don’t need to be a National Novel Writing Month winner to know what successful writers know. Take a look at your own writing successes. Perhaps you committed to and finished a journaling program. Maybe you got that first big article published. Or you kept your commitment to write every day. Good for you! Now ask yourself, “What practices led to that success?” Make a list. Do more of the same—and you will be more successful. It’s that simple.

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