Chicago Writes: What #NaNo2016 Has Taught Me


This year, I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo. The last time I tried was back in 2005. I ended up getting a novel started out of it, and I did eventually finish that novel, but I didn’t *win* NaNo in the traditional sense of the word. (And no one liked that novel, so I ended up trunking it.)

So I decided to see if I could do it this time.

I should’ve known better. I’m a pretty slow writer. It can take me years to come up with a name for my main character, let alone plots and all that good stuff. And I’m a pantser. I have things I want to happen in the story, but I tend to use those as guidelines rather than full on directives. And I have a DayJob™ plus freelance clients. I’m currently juggling two. Add in health issues and well, I’m wondering what I was thinking.

But I’m glad I attempted it. I know I’m not going to win, but it’s OK. I think, what I’ve gained, is much more valuable for my writing and my (eventual) career:

  1. I gave myself permission to suck. Letting go of the expectation of perfection, even letting myself keep typos and misspellings and wrong words in the manuscript has been challenging, but liberating!
  2. No self-editing means more words can flow. Even if those words are crappy words or words that will likely get cut or changed later.
  3. I’m not even trying to write a coherent plot, and that’s OK. I’m letting my character tell the the story. It’s a hot mess. I won’t be showing this to anyone. But by letting her tell the story without worrying about making a brilliant plot or you know, crafting a NYT bestseller, I can focus on what she’s telling me, what she wants, and how I can get her there. And also, what crap I can throw in the way to trip her up! *evil cackle*
  4. No pressure! Once I realized that I wasn’t going to win (and let’s face it, I figured this out the first week of November), I’m simply letting myself have fun with the process. The last thing I want to do is put undue pressure on myself and my writing, and sap the joy out of the one place I feel really, truly home.
  5. Every book really is different. I have books I pounded out in six months. I have books that have taken years to write and more years to revise. I don’t know which this one is yet—because we’re starting a new journey together.
  6. I’m having a blast! Getting to know my main character, her co-stars, the setting, and even all the minor characters has been a lot of fun. I’m crafting a boss playlist, writing down ideas forever in my notebook, and staying up in the middle of the night thinking of things to happen, and trying to figure out exactly how to write this story.

I’m grateful for attempting NaNo this year. I like what I’ve learned, I like the newfound freedom I have with my writing now. I hope I can keep this mindset every time I draft something new, knowing I can always fix the hot mess of a draft later.


This post is brought to you by Ronni Davis at

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