What exactly is NaNoWriMo and how in the world can someone actually write that many words in so short a time? As a participant, 8 years running, and a self-published author with 2 years and 5 books under her belt, I'm here to tell you it's possible! First, lets go over the basics:
(disclaimer: this is not sponsored and no one asked me to write this)
NaNoWriMo: what is it?
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. According to the website: “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, empowering approach to creative writing. The challenge: draft an entire novel in just one month…”
It began in 1999 as challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now thousands of people around the world begin to write their novels on November 1.
Also on their website, they have tools, community meet-ups, and a spot for you to post the details of your novel. If you need/want it, they even have a prep course on their website that helps you get started planning your novel. You can also “buddy up” with friends to see each other’s progress. (If you want to buddy up with me, click here to go to my profile)
Frequent Asked Questions:
How do you do it/How do you stay focused?
Here are just a few things that helped me get through 9 years of NaNoWriMo with a finished-ish draft:
- Accountability Partner:
During my first NaNoWriMo back in 2014, I was talking to my cousin Joy, who introduced me to NaNoWriMo, the entire month. We checked in with each other at least once a day if I remember correctly. Now, I usually just Tweet my word count, but this year I’ll be posting to Facebook, Twitter(x), Threads, Mastodon, Blusky, Tumblr, possibly Instagram, and TikTok with the word count update and my favorite line I wrote from that day. So follow me all over. (-_^)
- Writing Buddy/Alpha Reader/Emotional Support Human:
Having someone that I can talk about the book as I write helps immensely. Why because I have mental health issues after a severe concussion back in 2011, and sometimes I need to talk things out before it clicks or to know if the idea is solid or taking the story in the wrong direction.
Special Shout Out to Matt, my “Manager”, as he’s always eager to hear about the books as I’m writing and helps me work through things when I get stuck or thing my writing isn’t good enough.
- Listening to music:
I know I’ve said this before in my blog about writing, but I have a writing playlist that has no lyrics just a mix of instrumental music. Classical, Movie Scores, Video Game Scores, and the like. Songs with lyrics tend to distract me as I start singing along to the music and I HAVE to get the words right. (>_<) So, no lyrics for me when I’m concentrating.
- Turning Notifications off:
Putting your phone, computer, or other electronics on Do Not Disturb or pausing notifications, so that they can’t distract you. I know people love to make excuses as to why they can’t do this, but notifications can be put on silent save for an hour or even limited to a few contacts or apps. I have a “work mode” that allows my hubby, some of my family members, and a couple friends to reach me via text or call, but everything else is muted.
- Tell people:
This may seem counterproductive, but telling the people in your life that might bother you will help. Just saying something like “Hey, I’m participating in a Writing Challenge this month, and I’m going to be setting aside (XYZ time) for writing, if you could wait until after that time to contact me, that would be great.” And stick to it! If they’re supportive of your writing, they will understand and give you the space/time to write.
- Make it a Habit/Ritual:
Don’t just say you’re going to write. Get into the habit. Set aside a block of time each day, and get ready before hand.
What does that look like? For me:
- I fill up my water bottle.
- Grab a snack.
- Light a candle.
- Let everyone know I’m going DND (or at least those I’m talking to at the time.
- Put notifications on silent.
- Put on headphones.
- Start my playlist.
- Open my document(s).
- Start writing.
- At the end of the time allotted, or the word count, let the world, or your Accountability buddy, know your updated count.
This routine will help you get into the writing space, at least it does for some.
My Only "Problem" with NaNoWriMo:
The challenge is 50,000 words, and that is, often times, the lowest number of words that an agent will except for a Fiction Novel and is sometimes considered a Novella. The average length of an Adult fiction Novel is about 90,000 words according to prowritingaid.com. Which means NaNoWriMo isn’t going to leave you with a completed first draft, unless you’re an underwriter who then adds more details in the second draft or editing stage.
So why do I continue doing it? I use NaNoWriMo as a launchpad. For me, 50k is about halfway through a book. I try to complete NaNoWriMo by November 15, which ironically is my cousin Joy’s birthday. I try to finish the first draft by November 30, which for me is 75,000-100,000 words. Sometimes it happens, Sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time I at least get to my word count goal, even if I don’t finish the book at that time.
A Few Parting Words;
I want to leave you with a few parting words from someone who has done NaNoWriMo 8 years running and 9 years total, who has now been published for 2 years. Writing a novel isn’t easy, and the fact that you’re going to give it a go, even if you don’t reach the 50,000-word goal, is amazing! Keep in mind that only 3% of writers finish their book, and out of those 3%, less than 1% ever put in the work to edit, polish, format, and get their book published whether that’s self-publishing, like me, or getting an agent and going traditional. Be a part of that 1%. Write your novel, fight for it, work toward your goal whether that’s publication or simply to have a finished book that friends, and family can read.
It’s a LONG road, but trust me, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think it was. Even with the ups and downs of Self-Publishing, the drain of social media, and the way the world is right now with AI and plagiarism, IT IS WORTH IT! You can do it! Write that book!
Next week I’m going to talk about my experiences with NaNoWriMo and the week after that I’ll be doing a blog about the projects I’ve done for NaNoWriMo and what stage they’re at now. If you want to be notified about the blogs to come, sign up by clicking the button and filling out the form.
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps you to push forward and write that book!
I have a book coming out on Halloween! If you haven’t heard about the Kalista Chronicles series, the Born Angle Universe Saga, or just found my page because of NaNoWriMo,
why not check out the books that have come from it?
Countdown to A Broken Redeemer:
If you've read this far down, leave me a rating and let me know what you thought or if you had any other questions about National Novel Writing Month!