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2013 October 23


I did something sort of bold a few weeks ago–I signed up for National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a novel–at least 50,000 words–from November 1-November 30. One month.

It’s completely insane. But I thought, why not? At the very worst, I will never open the website again and will just keep living my life. No harm, no foul.

But as November creeps closer, I find myself not getting scared of the zombie posters in the subway or the inflatable skeletons decorating stoops around the neighborhood or even the prospect of seeing dozens of wrecking ball costumes around Manhattan over the weekend–no, what’s scaring me is the prospect of this damn NaNoWriMo.

The thing is, once you sign up for something like this, something that you’ve heard of and have been thinking about for several years, you can’t just ignore it. Especially when they send you emails like this. You have to either admit failure before even starting and move on with your life, knowing you didn’t try, or you can admit failure after you’ve tried to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Neither choice is particularly appealing. I suppose I COULD meet the goal and “win” the challenge–but then what would I have? 50,000 words worth of some serious editing to do…and probably a LOT of disillusionment about this idea of writing a novel.

NaNoWriMo definitely has its share of critics. With good reason. Writing a novel is a monumental task, one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly, one that takes time, planning, commitment, and a certain degree of complete insanity. I fully realize this, and I think that’s part of the reason I signed up for the damn thing in the first place. I’ve had this idea for a novel kind of floating around for the past year or so, and thought that, even if I don’t make it past day 2 or 500 words, at least I will have sat down and started it. That’s gotta count for something, right?

This weekend, in a writing rut (of which I’ve yet to break out of), I typed out the brief outline I’d written on a plane several months ago for the first few chapters.  Rather than inspiring me or sparking new ideas, I found myself hating the entire idea, all of the characters, and wanting to throw my notes into the fake fireplace at the bar I was writing in. (What, you don’t do your writing at bars?)

So now I find myself at an impasse. I know that actually starting to write it will be the spark I need to at least have the courage to completely scrap the story or to keep going and see what takes shape. But I’m still dreading it, like going to the dentist (which I also did today) or doing my taxes.

And now that I’ve committed to this thing even further by openly confessing on my blog, I at least have to sign in on the first day…I will let you know how it all turns out.


Has anyone done NaNoWriMo before? What are your impressions? Any words of wisdom to share?

7 Responses Post a comment
  1. October 24, 2013

    I’ve signed up as well! Best of luck to you. We can do this. J

  2. Kelli permalink
    October 24, 2013

    Good for you for giving it a shot! Plus, don’t they say the more people you tell, the more accountable it holds you? I think it’s a good thing you’ve proclaimed your plan on the ol’ blog & officially signed up.

    I totally get your thought process on all of this though — says the girl who thinks about signing up every November and then never does.

    Good luck!

  3. Raquel permalink
    October 24, 2013

    I am curious to see how it goes for you! Please keep us posted.

    I signed up two years ago and quit two days and 6,500 words in, but I also didn’t have my heart in it and made up the story idea on the fly, so it didn’t hold up. I also am a really slow writer, and I embrace that–I didn’t used to, but I realize now that this isn’t some awful flaw I have to fix. It was thanks to NaNo that I realized I can’t handle pressure when I write, so it was an excellent learning experience. The experience is different for everyone (some people thrive under pressure–my business partner can write a book in a month when he’s under the gun), and I think everyone who tries it can learn something great from it.

    I wish you great luck! If nothing else, view this as a chance to devote some daily time to writing, word count be damned. Hold the 50k words up as an ideal, not an expectation if it eases the pressure. Maybe you can focus on firming up the outline, developing the characters, or exploring plot twists to alleviate the pressure. Alternately, just surrender to the insanity and do whatever it takes to meet that goal in a spirit of fun.

    I hope it’s fun and productive for you. Happy writing!

  4. October 24, 2013

    Yay! So excited for you!

  5. October 24, 2013

    I did NaNoWriMo for two years. The first year was my best. I taught at the same time and made my students participate as well (’cause I’m mean like that). I cheated that first year and worked on a novel I had already started. I was able to add 50,000 words to it. It’s pretty awful, and I doubt I’ll ever go back to edit it and get in an actual enjoyable story form. But hey, I wrote a novel. I guess that makes me a novelist. I was more proud of the work I did the second year, but alas my computer died (and I thought I had backed up the novel, but I had not updated it so only have first half or so).

    My advice:
    Back up to the cloud every day
    Visit the message boards for challenges (websites like Dr. Evil writing lab and One word were very helpful along with word wars on productivity)
    Back up…seriously
    Don’t take it too seriously. If it sucks, it sucks. You’ll still be a novelist. Whatever that’s worth.

  6. November 8, 2013

    I won NaNo every year in high school. I loved it. I don’t have a lot of motivation, and it gave me that! The novels I worked on during November were the longest pieces of writing I’ve done.

    I attempted it last year but I stopped writing pretty early because I lost motivation. This year is the first time in a long time that I am not participating. However, I still highly recommend it. I think it’s a good experience for every writer. It teaches you that the most important step is getting words on the page. The time for editing is later. If you can’t put something on the page, you have nothing to edit!

    I think the biggest thing that helped me was setting my document to 75% (size) so I could see the entire page on one screen, and making myself completely fill the page before I could do something else. That and description.

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