I first learned about NNWM about three years ago. At that time, it sounded kinda cool and I admired anyone who could actually do something like that, but it didn’t even enter my mind to enter the competition myself until two years ago.

I really didn’t know much about the competition then, but the thought that “someday” I’d maybe give it a shot did begin to enter my head.

When last year rolled around, I was busy with the last phase of writing/editing a manuscript I was working on, had tons of family responsibilities, and could have probably come up with several other “reasons” why I couldn’t have participated, but the bottom line was that I just wasn’t ready for it yet & the commitment wouldn’t have been there.

But at that time, I also made an internal promise to myself that I’d go for it in 2011. Not only would I participate, but I’d be victorious!

Guess what? My final word count this year was 50,121!

So many things stood in my way in previous years, but now that I’ve actually gone through the process myself, I honestly think the biggest obstacle has always been myself.

People tend to make time for the things that are important to them – and this year, the NaNoWriMo finally became important to me.

I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was, though; after reading countless blogs, taking endless notes, creating a daily word count chart and scheduling what to write every day of November, I still entered the competition clueless.

So what exactly did I learn from my first experience with NaNoWriMo?

1.    1. The word update box will appear right next to your name once the clock ticks midnight, November 1st and the box to copy and paste the manuscript in for verification won't appear until November 30th. 

2.   2.  I must write every single day, no matter what. In order to meet the minimum 50,000-word requirement, it takes a daily effort of 1,667 words. If a day of writing is missed or that count is not met, the number rolls over to the following day. It is very difficult to make that up later.

3.    3. Creating a chart outlining what I’d like to have written each day is critical.

4.   4.  Editing is a complete no-no during the process!

5.  5.  Don’t spend too much over-thinking or over-analyzing what’s flowing through the fingers; just allow the thoughts to get onto the paper.

6.   6.  Reflecting back to my number 3 thought, gather tons of research material on your writing topic before November first. It will save a lot of time later on, when time is something that cannot be wasted. Another thing: if I get stuck on a thought and don’t know how to finish it, or if I don’t know the specifics on a subject, I’’ll just type NOTE in bold-face and keep going.

7.   7.  I also told lots of people about my entering the competition, people that I knew would be continuously asking how I was coming along. That added the element of accountability for me.

8.  8. I had a photo selected as the cover art for my novel; seeing the cover made the process more real to me.

9.    9. When putting that 50,000 word count in perspective, most books seem to be between 70 – 100,000 words. Writing 50,000 is a tremendous jump-start!

10.  10. Take a break for a few days after NaNo is done. Work a puzzle, watch a couple movies you’ve been wanting to see, get to level three in that game you never have time to play. And reflect back on what you just accomplished – you wrote a manuscript (or a good chunk of it) in one month!