I don't know about the rest of you NaNo-ers, but I'm still tired. :) My final word count was 58,509 words, which I wrote in three weeks - I had two kids home from school the whole week of Thanksgiving, and I got zero computer time after that. So writing all those words in such a short amount of time took a lot of brain power, but I'm slowly recovering. :)
In the last couple weeks of NaNo, there were many threads/blog posts/conversations about its effectiveness. Many people were cursing the whole idea of NaNo. Lots knew that they were writing dreck and had nightmares about re-reading any of it. Some were finding NaNo helpful, though didn't know how much they'd written would be usable in the actual novel. And a very few got a lot out of it - like, they got a real novel out of it. I'm one of those very few.
Why did some get so much out of NaNo while others were tearing their hair out and screaming at whoever thought this whole thing up? Well, writing process has much to do with it - some write faster than others. The ability to deal with stress and a heavy workload also contributes. But I think there is one thing that really stands out: goals.
When you sat down to write for NaNo, what was your goal? To write 50,000 words? To write a novel? To kickstart your novel? I took a look at what writers were saying while under the NaNo influence, and sort of mapped out goals to outcome.
In most cases, if the goal was to write 50,000 words, the end result was dreck with lots and lots of unnecessary words/subplots/characters/etc. If the goal was to kickstart the novel, most writers ended up with pages and pages of unusable text, but had a really solid feel for the novel and were excited about sitting down to really write it. If the goal was to write a novel, most writers did that, even if they didn't get to 50,000 words.
My goal was this: by the end of November, I wanted to have a novel written, regardless of how many words I ended up with. It so happened that my novel was longer than that, and it's still not finished. But word count was not my first priority. The story was. I set a daily word count goal, and did my best to reach it - but, if I couldn't reach it, I did not sacrifice the story.
If you let the word count take priority, then that's what you're going to end up with. But if you let the story take priority, then you may or may not end up with 50,000 words, but you'll have a good story. The key is to take a look at how you work, and then tailor NaNo to your needs. That way you can get the most out of this truly grueling process.
I doubt I'll do NaNo again, but if I do, there are some things I know I need to have. I must have an outline, and character journals. Also, I need to have a solid first chapter - because, for me, everything flows downhill. Without those things, I would get nothing from NaNo. But with those things, I could get a novel, which would be my goal.
What was your goal? And what did you end up with?