Before November started, I had 11 short story ideas ready to go with the intent of writing 50,000 words in one month. I ended up with 6 short stories and 1 novella and a few insights.
Something I already knew about my writing was that I meander when I start a story. I never manage to come up with an awesome, memorable first line, or heck, even a first paragraph or page that's usable. I usually have to ease into the story, and then somewhere around the second page things get going. Working on short form for a month really brought this home for me because every few days I ended up doing the exact same thing. I'd meander my way into a story.
The second thing I discovered was that I really couldn't put my finger on a story's theme until it was finished. I might have an idea of what I want to write about when I start out, but it's not until I write the last few lines that I think, "Oh, that's what this story was about." It was infinitely easier to figure this out when I wrote a story over the span of a few days.
Third, it's okay for the first draft to suck. Really, it is. You just can't get it all right the first time. I think I needed to remind myself of this. I ended up jotting down a few notes at the end of each story before moving on to the next so I'll be able to look at that whenever I go back to revise.
Finally, I managed to shake off whatever was bugging me earlier this year and finish several stories. Yes, they need work. But it's so much easier to make a story into the shiny, gorgeous thing it's meant to be when you actually have the raw material on paper. That last story was hard to write. I was tired of pushing myself. I felt mad-scientist insane, like when I attended Odyssey and had to critique stories every day on top of writing my own material and going to class. When I wrapped up the last few lines of that last story, I think I might have cackled. Cackled! Well, the nice folks in the coffee shop are used to me by now.
For those of you who finished NaNo, congratulations! For those who started something but didn't reach that 50K mark, keep plugging away. And when you're ready to edit that story (or stories) into something beautiful to send out into the world, read Amalia Dillin's tips for revising.