Monday, December 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Assessing Your Performance

Winner badge 120x240The dust has finally settled from 30 days and nights of National Novel Writing Month's literary abandon. Some of us made our goal of 50 thousand words, while others took a valiant stand and fell a little short. But wherever your final word count, now is the time to take a serious look at your writing style and the lessons you learned about yourself in the last month.

Assessing Your Style
Here's my take on some of the important questions you should be asking yourself:
  • Where was your most productive place to write?
    Did you find a new place that you like to write this year? It's important that you feel comfortable in your writing space regardless of where it is. But you also have to remember that you're there to WORK. The greatest, dreamed up writing space is useless if it distracts you from your daily word count.
    Each of us have our own temptations and yours will obviously be unique to you. I listened to a published author's interview once where she said she wrote in her laundry room because her family knew work got done in there and went out of their way to avoid it.Another author said she would tell her family that she was going to the grocery store, but then end up at the park, writing in her car for an hour.
    Probably not very comfortable, but productive.
  • What was your best time to write?
    Some writers have to write in the mornings, while others can only do it at night. But what you need to remember is to make time regardless of when it is. If you want to write, MAKE time. And if that time just happens to be when all your synapses are firing, so much the better. Just make your time count and don't forget the authors that get up at 5 A.M. just to get their writing in before they go to work.
    Find a time and make it yours.
  • What was your best creative time?
    My best creative time is between about 2 P.M and 6 P.M. For some reason, during those hours, my brain crackles with fresh ideas. Unfortunately, that's when I'm at my day job, so I'm forced to work around that hiccup.
    I carry a little mule-skin notebook with me and a collapsible pen, because I learned that if I wait until I get home to write the note down, the idea is gone and I usually can't get it back.When a cool idea or word pops into my head, I grab my notebook and write down something, QUICK!
  • What was your greatest distraction?
    For me, it's snack food and checking my word count. Oh, and Facebook... and Goodreads... sometimes Twitter. Geez... and the blog always needs something. Laundry needs to be done and the dishwasher needs to be loaded now that I think about it too. And it's November, I need to hang the Christmas lights before it snows. And that means I need to winterize the yard.
    There's always going to be something. The greatest help I found for avoiding distractions was short word sprints. See, I joined the iWriteNetwork on Facebook and on their website and they have an awesome chat room. You can ask all sorts of writerly questions, but most of all, you can sprint with other writers there and see who can nail down the biggest numbers.

    Doing word sprints, with other authors, kept me motivated and was a lot of fun. I found out I actually got my word count done quicker when we were sprinting.

    Not to mention I had experts on hand when I needed to learn how they classify 6 inch heels... in metric using countries.
  • What was your favorite scene to write?

    For me, it was a particularly gruesome scene where my villain takes over a secret organization. He was arrogant and cruel. Nothing like writing a great bad guy! But what it taught me, was that I had fun writing horror. The chapter was a great rough draft and gave me a creepy start on a tension building chapter.

    Look at what your favorite scenes were to write. Which ones did you have the most fun with? Which scenes seemed to flow out of you with the least amount of effort?

  • If you had to choose something you do well in writing, what would it be?
    I think I'm pretty good with descriptions. Some of the folks in my writing group are great at dialog while others are better with characterization. Either way, you will have some tools in your toolbox that you are better with than others. How can you build on this success?
  • If you had to choose something you need more practice at in writing, what would it be?
    Lately I've been getting into 'Talking Head Syndrome' (THS). For me, THS has taken on the aspect of several pages of dialog with little or no tagging or description. All this will be cleaned up in revision... right?
    When you look back at what you wrote during November are there any chapters that stick out? What could you have done better? What can you do to turn your weakness into a strength?

  • Looking at your daily word count during NaNoWriMo, what is a realistic, yet challenging, word count goal?
    I'm keeping my goal at 1,000 per day / 5,000 per week. As you can see, I'm giving myself a little wiggle room because I learned that I write less when I'm consistantly not making my goals, so I have to give me a good chance to succeed every day. Sure there will be times when I blow my goals far out of the water while some days they'll sink deep, but a goal should be challenging yet attainable.
    An Honest Review
    Having participated in NaNoWriMo now, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at your work. You spent the time to become a better writer, so now you owe it to yourself to take a long look at your results and make some important decisions about improvements. Like any good boss, you need to check up on your employees and YOU are a company of one. Consider the following questions as part of an employee evaluation with yourself.

    That said, do not beat yourself up. Nobody likes having an ignorant jerk for a boss. Be understanding and look for honest ways to improve your work and help yourself succeed.

    • What would you say was the most important lesson you learned about yourself from this years NaNoWriMo? 
    • Name three things you plan to do to overcome your NaNo failings?
    • If you tried a new genre this time, is this genre for you? Why?
    • Did you enjoy this genre enough to write in it again?
    • If I asked your writing group, would they say you work well in this genre?
    • Do you work better in another genre or are wasting your talents in this one?
    • If you could give one piece of writing advice to yourself, what would it be?


  1. Great post, Anthony! :)
    I didn't do NANO this year. I did RevNaNo. How did your NANO work out? What did you write?

  2. Very helpful tips. I didn't participate in NANO, but I can certainly use what you said to help me in my writing. Glad you chose to share them with us.

  3. What a great way to break down the writing experience and find our strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for separating the right questions to ask.


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