Do You NaNoWriMo?

Dame Kaz

Are you sick of posts about NaNo yet? Well… I’m sorry, but here’s one more!

We’re 10 days away from the start of NaNoWriMo 2012. Are you taking part? Is it something you do regularly? I’m not taking part ‘officially’ – as in, I’m not signing up on the site or anything like that. But I am doing an unofficial version with two other writers on Twitter. We’re calling it #NaNoTriMo because there’s three of us checking in with each other. Genius, right? *g* A couple of us are starting a bit later, too – maybe around Nov 5th. I think we’re all still aiming to write 50,000 words in the month of November, but without the additional pressure and admin of being an official participant. I prefer it that way, to be honest.

I have a long(ish) and sketchy relationship with NaNoWriMo. Trust me when I tell you that I am not an expert. At all. In fact, I have never actually ‘won’ (to use their term for completing the 50K) while officially signed up. Want to know more? Of course you do!

Here’s my personal track record, broken down for each year since I first tried the challenge (short version: things started well, but went very quickly downhill after that):

2007 = My first ever attempt. Agreed to do an unofficial version of it with two friends. We aimed for 30K and blogged our progress. I ended up writing the first 56,000 words of a novel that eventually became my first ever published novel* over 3 years later. Now I sort of wish I’d signed up so I could be one of the NaNoWriMo success stories! 😉

2008 = By this point in time, the 2007 project had been revised, rewritten and revised some more. It still hadn’t sold to any publishers (although it did help me to find an agent), so… all inspired… I signed up properly for NaNo for the first time and……. dropped out about a week in!

2009 = The 2007 project had sold! Woo! So… all inspired… I decided to learn from 2008’s ‘failure’ (I don’t like that word, really) and not sign up on the NaNo site. This time I would keep it simple and write quietly by myself, trying for the 50K on my own. Result? Crashed and burned, baby.

2010 = Didn’t bother with it at all. By now, I hate NaNo and all it stands for. Am in denial that The Iron Witch (soon to be published in February 2011) ever started as an unofficial NaNoWriMo book.

2011 = Randomly decide that maybe NaNo doesn’t suck after all. Sign up officially on the site, full of excitement and positive energy. Write sort of consistently through a very difficult personal time. Final word count: 28,000 (give or take).

2012 = Not signing up this time, but I just can’t let the damn thing go! What’s wrong with me? I think I just want to prove I can do it again, and that 2007 wasn’t a fluke. I’ll be writing a big chunk of words to complete a book that is partially written, so technically I can’t take part officially even if I wanted to.

Here’s the thing about this particular writing ‘challenge’… You really do have to focus on just getting that first draft OUT. Start at the beginning of the story, and write all the way through until you get as close to the end as possible. Or, you could try writing the scenes that you feel most excited about – even if it means writing them out of order. Either way, the words will get written – I know writers who use both methods.

With a total word goal of 50,000, you may not actually finish a complete draft. That’s okay. Just get as much down on the page as you can. No matter how tempted you are to go back and edit; no matter how badly you feel the urge to re-read what you’ve written and fix things, this is the one time where it’s not always the best thing. I’m not saying this is the ‘right’ way to write. Absolutely not! The right way is the way that works for you. But most people trying this challenge will encourage you to keep moving forward. Don’t look back.

Eventually, the end of November will come. It really will, trust me. When you’re about halfway through you won’t believe The End will ever get here and you’ll probably feel like stabbing yourself repeatedly in the eye with your pen. That’s okay! (Well, not the stabbing part…) You’ll get through this, I promise, because time will move on and each day will pass… and before you know it November 30th will be upon you and you’ll be scrambling to write just a few more measly words, watching the clock as it inexorably ticks toward midnight on the first day of December.

Ultimately, it may be that something like NaNo isn’t for you because you’re just not the kind of writer who can bang out a SFD** without worrying about it too much. Keeping the Internal Editor at bay is impossible hard at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Really, when you think about it (and I’d advise not thinking about it too hard), the whole NaNoWriMo deal is batshit crazy. But that’s half the fun! Who doesn’t like a silly writing challenge? And let’s face it, it’s not as crazy as the 3-Day Novel Contest. Hmm… Maybe we should all try that next year…

So, what about you – do you NaNo?

(Images ©

*The Iron Witch
**Shitty First Draft. Thank you, Anne Lamott.


  1. Shanna says

    Shitty First Draft – that’s genious!

    No NaNo for me this year as I’m extremely busy with putting up my webshop next to my fulltime job and the horses. But once it’s online I’m planning on going back to writing, NaNo or not!

  2. Nikki Egerton says

    Yes I NaNo, and I can’t wait for Nov 1st!

    I’ve completed it twice, but never been as geared up as I am this year. Last year’s SFT was pretty good, and could possibly evolve into a MCFD (mostly crap first draft) with lots and lots of work.

    I have high hopes for this year’s though, in that I can practically I taste the world I’m going to create, am putting together a playlist for the first time ever, and even know what my characters look like (if not their names)

    Plus I have a lovely new laptop to work on, so hopefully not as much RSI pain as last year (when I wrote on a tiny netbook)

    Can you tell I’m excited???

  3. says

    I’ve done it every year since 2007. 2007 was the first time I’d written a novel length story and it will probably stay in the bottom of the closet. Now I have 4 other messy first drafts and the fodder for a possible series. Now I just have to learn to edit. This year I’m doing it again. Can you tell I’m a glutton for punishment. The minor character who threatened to take over last year’s story is being given his own story. I’m having fun researching and plotting. Will I make it to 50K this year. Don’t know. Each year gets a bit harder. I’m looking forward to locking my internal editor in the basement once again and dive in. Have fun!

  4. says

    Robin, I think we should lock our Internal Editors away together. Maybe they can keep each other occupied… 😉 GOOD LUCK!! I hope this year is fabulously creative, productive & fun.


  5. Cheryl says

    Hello! I am currently reading your book The Iron Witch and I’m really enjoying it. Unfortunately, I have to set it aside because I am trying NaNo for the first time this year! Yay! I think…..I’m trying very hard not to edit and just free write and work on scenes as they come into my head. I will have A LOT of editing to do come December but at least it will be a start. I’m proud of myself for even attempting this lol. Will I reach 50,000? Probably not but I can try right. Good luck to you and your writer friends at NaNoTriMo :)

  6. Kate says

    I’ve done the 3 Day novel for *years*. I did my first ones in high school. And I’ve been doing them unofficially for a few years. (They changed the reading cost.) And I’ve gotten several drafts out of it.
    I find them insane. But well worth it. It’s been some of my tightest work. And it’s a lot easier for me to find 3 days to focus completely than small bits over a month.
    That being said, I’m a veteran Nano person too. Love it and the people I’ve met through it. I finally “won” for the first time last year. And managed to hit 50K during Camp Nano as well.

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