It’s December 2nd, and I’m trying to sort out what to do with my life now Novel in November is officially over. I’ve concluded it’s worth taking a couple of days before the holiday rush and the editing process to reflect on what I’ve learned through this amazing, rewarding & rather gruelling experience.

And here’s what I’ve pondered up: It’s a pretty wonderful thing being a writer, because nothing you do is ever a waste of time. You might feel that the draft you’ve just produced is going nowhere & you’d like to scrap the whole lot, & therefore that the process of writing a novel in a month has been a waste.

BUT, my personal opinion & experience is that the process of writing is what polishing you into the Writer of better books. So even if this project you’ve just finished is not what you hoped it would be, YOU are growing, and you are that much closer to the book that you want to write each and every time you sit down to attempt it.

There really is so much to be said for trying & failing, and trying again. You can read blogs & books all day long about how to write a novel, Dos & Don’ts and all of that, but ultimately it’s all head knowledge until you try the thing for yourself. That’s what makes all those little tips and craft come to life & suddenly become applicable.

In my case, this was my second attempt at a full novel, and the second one was SO much easier because of what I’d learned from doing the first (which was, btw, a complete mess & I almost gave up on the whole dream because I felt there was no hope for me!). But only now do I see just how much I gleaned from that experience. A LOT.

So if you, like me, are wondering what to do with yourself now it’s December, let me encourage you to STOP, give yourself a breather & take stock of what you’ve learned from this Novel in November experience… SO THAT you can do it better next time!

BECAUSE THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME!!!!!!!

***Now for my TOP 5 “Things I Learned from Novel in November 2016″***

1. Practice makes… better… & faster

No perfection here, but I have been amazed by how much I’ve upped my rate of writing! There’s nothing like a ticking clock to force you to crank the words out! It reminded me frighteningly of running sprints over the summer – every time you push yourself, you get a little stronger & just a little faster. Same with word sprints!

2. Don’t over-research!

Hard lesson to learn, because I LOVE research! I could do it all day. Problem is, I can do it all day in the name of prepping for my novel when actually not an nth of the fascinating notes I’ve taken will actually make it into the novel.

This was perhaps my biggest mistake with my last novel. I had gazillions of notebooks full of researched, thought out notes… but not much plot. In the end, I was overwhelmed & worse, my story was overwhelmed with trying to fit in ALL THAT STUFF! So take it from one who’s learned the hard way: plot first, then research what you need for the story. When you’ve finished your ms, you can reward yourself with day at the library or on Google researching to your heart’s content!

3. Planning really does work wonders!

Previously, I was on the fence about plotting over pantsing… after this Novel in November, I’m a BIG believer in plotting, using one of the many methods out there (see Bri’s blogpost on that!) Having Jeff Gerke’s book there as as guide was a tremendous help for someone like me who doesn’t know where to begin nor where to end the pre-planning (bc, see above, I tend to overdo it!). I still got lots of surprises with my plot along the way, but there was never that sickening moment when I discovered an enormous hole in my plot 2/3s of the way through… Save yourselves!!!

4. Got an idea? Write it down immediately!

With 1 month to finish 50,ooo words, you’ve got to write whether you’re feeling inspired, or feeling like a brick. No choice. BUT, should that magic feeling of inspiration come (& it’ll probs come whilst your driving or showering) don’t let it get away! And don’t count on yourself to remember that great plot twist or killer bit of punchy dialogue. Get it down on some piece of something ASAP!

5. Getting the 1st draft down quickly pays off 

Once again, before coming to this whole NaNoWriMo business, I was a bit of a skeptic. What, I thought, is the point of gushing out words for a month if they’re going to be rushed & rubbish & require the whole rest of the year to re-write?

But now I’ve done it, I am a true believer in getting your story idea down quickly. Why? Firstly, in the past I’ve over-labored my 1st draft, it’s taken a whole year, & in the end of that year, I never wanted to touch the thing again. With 30 days to do it, I kept my momentum, & my mind didn’t have time to get into tangles or explore all my options. I  just had to go with my gut… & my gut wasn’t so off!

Secondly, too much time on my hands gives my inner critic (negative little thing she is) time to rear her prim, nosy, despairing little head. BUT with only 30 days to work with, I simply did not have the time to entertain her. And when I do unleash her for the edit, she will be a much humbled critic who will NOT despair because I will remind her of this little piece of documentation proving that I am a growing novelist:

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Tomorrow Bri will share her own reflections – can’t wait to hear them! And I’m so proud of her for finishing on time, against all odds & juggling 2 jobs & dozens of dairy goats! She’s my heroine! 

And stay tuned after that as we dive into December’s topics: Revision! and festive, wintery reads… 🙂 and, hopefully, you’ll be seeing our Sept. Story Chasers in London Vlog here in the coming days! 

How’s about you? How did you find the Novel in November (or NaNo) experience?

What did you take away from it for future writing projects?