NaNoWriMo 2013: Post Mortem

I like the project process of summing up the results of what has been attempted and achieved with a “post mortem” summary.  It allows me to see with clear hindsight what lessons there were to be learned along the way.


This is my list of lessons learned this year during NaNoWriMo.  I hit 50K words on November 29th, and am declared a “winner” by NaNoWriMo standards. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I set out to do everything that I wanted to do with this month of writing.

I wanted to test my process. I wanted to learn my drafting process from scratch, because I’ve never outlined and written a novel-length work from idea to completion.  That sort of worked… I suppose.

Lessons learned:

  1. I still swoop faster than I think I will. I like to think that I load in a lot of sensory detail when I draft. I don’t. Apparently, that’s something I do on a second-pass. I actually finished the main outline and plot points of this novel at about 30,000 words.  It was mostly action and dialogue, with very little description.
  2. Outlining definitely helped me write this book, and the process I had for mapping out the plot worked really well. With two major exceptions:
    1. Exception 1: I also need to pre-plan all of my subplots, and not just the main arc.  This became a problem at that 30K mark when I needed to add in other things going on in my extended short story.
    2. Exception 2:  I didn’t do enough character work on enough characters during the pre-planning stage. I would have better understood my subplots and the desires and conflicts of my main characters had I done a little more preparation in that regard.
  3. “Fun” only carries so far. If it doesn’t strum chords of emotion inside me, I can’t stick with it very well.  If I’m not writing from that deeper well of emotion, it also reads flat and uninteresting.  I was struggling with the last 10,000 words when I realized that the thing the story was missing was me.
  4. The biggest lesson learned: I’m a healthier, saner, happier person when I sit down and write something fresh and new every day.  I’m going to have to keep that in mind when I realize how grumpy I am because all I’m doing is editing.  This is the first time I’ve written something fresh for this many consecutive days, and I can feel the difference.

The book? Well, it’s not done quite yet.  I’m going to brush up the continuity and finish what I think needs to happen to make it a solid first draft before it sees the light of day.  I’m hoping to get it up to the 80-90K word range, but I’m not sure whether that will happen in the first draft, or later versions.   I might let some beta readers ask for what they want more information about before I push for length.   I’m not sure.   I’m still trying to test the process length itself, so even if I take breaks on it from here on out, they will be short ones.

How about you? Did any of you learn anything from your NaNoWriMo experience?


3 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo 2013: Post Mortem

  1. A great post AK, this bit especially resonated with me: I also need to pre-plan all of my subplots, and not just the main arc.
    I was stumped at 20,000 words largely because of this; I had my main quest in mind but I didn’t know what was going to happen between the inciting incident & the conclusion. As a result I lost my writing mojo & didn’t get going again.
    Thanks for sharing & congrats on crossing the finish line.

  2. Pingback: Holidays and Working | A Book A Day

  3. Pingback: Writing Process… Wha? Huh? | . A.K. Anderson

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