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NaNoWriMo Challenge benefits writers of all sorts

November 2011 will likely be a month I will not soon forget. I took the NaNoWriMo challenge, along with 230,000 others in 45 countries. The National Novel Writing Month encourages those who believe they have a book in them to write a 50,000 word novel in its entirety.

Admittedly, work and family challenges interfered, and I didn’t meet that stretch goal…yet. My plan is to complete the first draft by December 15th. Will I do it again? Yes! And here’s why.

I’ve lived with myself all these decades, and I still learned a few lessons from NaNoWriMo!

Start a huge project with mental calisthenics
I prepared for the project by purchasing the new book by Write Now! Coach, Rochelle Melander, Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). Melander served on a recent freelance writing panel held by UW-Milwaukee’s School of Continuing Education, along with Working Writers members Anne Bingham, Joel Habush and me. Her book, written during NaNoWriMo in 2009, contains great tips to get the budding novelist started.

NaNoWriMo’s founder, The Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit organization, has established a website that allows you to check in with like- minded folk. You can also find out about live writing events in your area. I passed on that one. Why leave home or your corner in the neighborhood coffee shop to commiserate?

Other aha moments
1. Procrastination protects us. Once November 1st arrived, I found myself immediately putting off my novel writing. Alas, it was too late, I had informed several friends, family and business associates about my project.
2. With a large goal in sight, everything in your life will conspire against you. Somehow I overcame my teen son’s bronchitis, need for homework help, tragic death of a classmate, husband’s crazy work schedule, my work, housework, my need for sleep and exercise…You get the picture. I learned the key is to slot time and just do it. If that doesn’t work, write during the next window, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
3. Writer’s block happens. A 50,000 word deadline in 30 days doesn’t allow for writer’s block. I had to forge ahead and once the ideas kicked in, the words came.
4. The need to edit accompanies all writing. NaNoWriMo’s founder, Chris Baty advises against editing and research in favor of beating the clock and crossing the finish line within the one month deadline. But, my need for structure, a sense for where the story was going, and to check for flow, led to editing.
5. In our heads is a wealth of information just waiting for the right opportunity to come out. Though a novel begins to be written on day one, the fact is, the topic you pick is likely one that’s been stewing in your head for some time. Writing under a tight deadline leads to a stream of material that practically writes itself. Satisfaction lies in later reading the gems within your work.
6. As a writer, work within the time available. Approaching any writing as if the deadline you’re presented with is a gift will produce work. Sometimes amazing work. Chances are a 15-minute business presentation written at a snail’s pace over three weeks will produce similar quality to one earnestly written within a day.

A reward near the end is priceless
The promise of a spa treatment and a one day hotel stay helped me through many dark hours. And there’s nothing like complete isolation in a hotel room (and did I mention red wine?) to get your fingers moving across that keyboard. No distractions. No excuses.

NaNoWriMo is over. What’s next?
Though I’ve previously written another novel and three screenplays, I plan to ride this wave and push toward publication of this young adult novel. Of course, I face many more hours of editing, and will employ a professional editor before submission.

I’m also ready to take on my next writing project, likely non-fiction, to build a platform for future client work. I feel a sense of accomplishment from NaNoWriMo that I can build on.

Most of all, I smile when I think about my 15-year-old son and his awed expression when I showed him the first 30 printed pages of my novel. “You wrote all that?” he asked. “Duh, I’m a writer. I’m just getting started.”

The author, Lora Hyler, is owner of Hyler Communications, a 10-year-old public relations business located in Glendale, WI. Contact her at lhyler@aol.com. Visit Rochelle Melander, The Write Now! Coach at http://www.writenowcoach.com and the NaNoWriMo website at http://www.nanowrimo.org

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