Home > Writing > NaNoWriMo: An excuse for writers to be totally insane for 30 days

NaNoWriMo: An excuse for writers to be totally insane for 30 days

www.nanowrimo.orgThis is my fourth year of participating in National Novel Writing Month, aptly shortened as NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org). (It’s also my third consecutive year.) The time I’m taking to write this is time I’m taking away from my novel. But that’s okay. As far as word counts go, I’m at least 9 days ahead (around 15,200 words). But I am also functioning on 7 hours of sleep for the past 48 hours so that’s not good. Call me crazy, call me an insomniac, but you can’t say I haven’t been productive.

So let’s break it down:

What is NaNoWriMo? Well, it’s a contest ambitious (and brave!) writers undertake during the month of November. The goal is to complete a work of fiction with a minimum of 50,000 words within 30 days. You start at midnight local time on November 1st and end by 11:59pm local time November 30th. You don’t start any earlier or finish any later.

What’s the prize for winning? Patting yourself on the back. The gratification of knowing you accomplished something that huge in one month. And a virtual certificate. Yeah… that’s pretty much it.

Why do people do this? NaNo is the cure for aspiring writers who say, “One day I’ll write a novel” but never actually get around to it. November is now a designated month to get that out of the way.

Why do YOU do this? Because I love it. And I love writing. NaNoWriMo gives me the freedom to simply write. It also challenges me to shut off my inner editor and just KEEP WRITING. It challenges me to reach a very difficult goal in a short period of time that would normally take me a long period of time. (I wrote my very first novel by hand in 6th grade and left it unfinished until 9th grade. And that was when I had more time on my hands [so to speak]!) When it’s not the month of November, I’m working on revising and polishing my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel for eventual publication.

I popped my NaNo cherry in 2005 and began writing a suspense novel. Due to various circumstances and hitting that annoying middle point of the novel where the creative muse runs dry, I never finished it. I skipped NaNo in 2006 due to poor health and re-emerged for a return in 2007. That year, I had a clear vision with a rough outline for what I wanted to write by October. I was dedicated and determined to pump out a complete novel and meet the minimum requirements. I did hit that dry spot that occurs in the middle of the novel (and the middle of the month) but trudged through it with gritted teeth to emerge victorious by November 30th. And why, yes, I did hold down a full-time job at the time, thanks for asking.

Working during train commuteHow was I crazy enough to do it? I worked on my novel every day:

  • morning and evening commutes on the train,
  • a full hour of typing for lunch (so technically I took an hour and a half—wouldn’t recommend that), and
  • slaved for hours over it during the weekends.

In 2008, I decided that I had a story dancing around in my head that I wanted to write but wouldn’t be for anyone else’s eyes. So I got to it and wrote it. The story came easily and quickly but finished 2K short a few hours before the deadline on Nov. 30th. So I continued the story by drafting an unnecessary 2,000+ words to meet the minimum requirement by the deadline.

Another successful NaNo year gone by, it’s now November 2009. And I intend to win yet again with my coming-of-age Young Adult novel that I’ll probably never see the light of day since it’s far-fetched and a broken off-portion of a series that I haven’t penned. Yet. However, you can feel free to read the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” excerpt here (click Novel Info and scroll to Excerpt).

I’ve created a writing-related account on Twitter, @kassiella, in which I follow a host of editors, literary agents, and published and aspiring authors. Reading about the publishing industry and getting tips on writing has really inspired and encouraged me to continue working and plugging away at my work-in-progress (WIP). So when I discovered Alexandra Sokoloff’s post, “Nanowrimo Day 1: Your First Draft is Always Going to Suck,” I nearly cheered at my computer desk. It’s a blog post bursting with truth that should encourage all NaNo writers to mentally banish their inner editor and JUST WRITE. Here’s an excerpt:

Your first draft always sucks.

I’ve been a professional writer for almost all of my adult life and I’ve never written anything that I didn’t hit the wall on, at one point or another. There is always a day, week, month, when I will lose all interest in the project I’m working on. I will realize it was insanity to think that I could ever write the fucking thing to begin with, or that anyone in their right mind would ever be interested in it, much less pay me for it. I will be sure that I would rather clean houses (not my own house, you understand, but other people’s) than ever have to look at the story again.

And that stage can last for a good long time. Even to the end of the book, and beyond, for months, in which I will torture my significant other for week after week with my daily rants about how I will never be able to make the thing make any sense at all and will simply have to give back the advance money.

manuscriptsEven though you will inevitably end up writing on projects that SHOULD be abandoned, you cannot afford to abandon ANY project. You must finish what you start, no matter how you feel about it. If that project never goes anywhere, that’s tough, I feel your pain. But it happens to all of us. You do not know if you are going to be able to pull it off or not. The only way you will ever be able to pull it off is to get in the unwavering, completely non-negotiable habit of JUST DOING IT.

Your only hope is to keep going. Sit your ass down in the chair and keep cranking out your non-negotiable minimum number of daily pages, or words, in order, until you get to the end.

This is the way writing gets done.

Some of those pages will be decent, some of them will be unendurable. All of them will be fixable, even if fixing them means throwing them away. But you must get to the end, even if what you’re writing seems to make no sense of all.


At some point you will come to hate what you’re writing. That’s normal. That pretty much describes the process of writing. It never gets better. But you MUST get over this and FINISH. Get to the end, and everything gets better from there, I promise. You will learn how to write in layers, and not care so much that your first draft sucks. Everyone’s first draft sucks. It’s what you do from there that counts.

Read Alexandra’s brilliant post in its entirety here. If you’re a writer, this should encourage you. If you’re not writing but want to, really, WHAT are you waiting for?

(typing photo from Elmine)
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