Growing up, my church had a 4-day program meant to train future missionaries. Called Niko, it was a survivalist-type program meant to stretch and challenge every area of one’s life: spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and interpersonal. It was held every month from April to October and I went on as many of them as I could. I loved it.
They were hard, extreme, and helped me learn a ton. We had a saying for people who went on multiple Niko’s: “Every Niko’s different.” And it was true. No matter if it was my first one or my sixteenth, it was always challenging. I always learned something new.
I’m starting to feel the same way about NaNoWriMo. I do it every year. (And sometimes more than once now that they have the Camps running during April and July.) It always challenges me, I learn so much, and even though I’ve done it before, there will always be more that I need to learn about my own writing.
This year was the mother-load. I picked up so many gems this past month, I feel they’re worth sharing.
Things I learned from NaNo 2013:
- Timeline software and world-building programs are the bomb! But they don’t really help me write any better. They’re just for fun.
- Changing tense and point of view from what I normally write helps reveal where I am weak in my writing. Even if I don’t keep writing in the same format, switching often does help with perspective.
- The importance of reading cannot be over-emphasized. This month I read five books while doing NaNo, and it has refreshed my perspective in ways I didn’t even know were possible.
- Perspective is important! (As made obvious by 2 and 3.) I cannot write well if my perspective is jaded. I cannot write well if I’ve been working on the same thing in the same way for four years (which is what I tried to do until November).
- The world needs stories. I thought this was a mere romantic sentiment that writers wished was true. But it really is true: Stories make the world turn.
- Going to write-ins 4 times a week is both awesome and unsustainable.
- Connecting with other writers, even if it means just sitting in the same room writing silently, is a great boon to dealing with the ups and downs of writing.
- Editing your own work is never nearly as much fun as editing someone else’s work.
- Editing is contagious, like hearing someone else speak in a different accent then finding yourself copying them. Afterwards, you want to correct every sentence you see to make it better. This is both beneficial and annoying.
- Writing a bare story takes considerably less effort than taming that story and making into something readable. You may have written more words during your first draft, but editing takes even more out of you than NaNoWriMo does.