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The Madness of NaNoWriMo

It’s November 4th, which means that all around the world, writers are sitting hunched over their computers, frantically trying to fill their word quota for the day. They will do this every day (woe betide any who miss a day) with the goal of writing an entire novel of at least 50,000 words in the month of November.

Do the math. That means approximately 1600 words per day, every day of the week without fail. And if you think that’s easy, well…just try doing it for two days, never mind thirty.There’s a reason why coffee is featured on the official NaNoWriMo logo (although for me it would be tea, but you can imagine the hot beverage of your choice, I suppose)!

Why this madness?  Well, NaNoWriMo, of course…otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

It’s not a competition. The idea is to get people writing 50,000 words of a novel. It could be the first 50,000 or a complete first draft which could then be edited later. Anyone who completes 50,000 in the month is declared a winner. Planning and extensive notes are permitted prior to November 1st (and I would say, strongly encouraged!) as long as no pre-written material can go into the body of the novel. You can’t start early or finish late.

NaNoWriMo began as the inspiration of freelance writer Chris Baty in July of 1999. That year saw twenty-one participants, it is expected that over 500,000 are participating this year. The idea of NaNoWriMo is to inspire creativity and to hold writers accountable to their goals. Their mission statement reads:

National Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals and build new worlds — on and off the page.

I first heard of NaNoWriMo quite a few years ago. And I will say I have never attempted it, but I have great admiration for those who do!


I love the idea of a community of writers who are working on the same goal, encouraging each other along the way, and NaNoWriMo certainly provides that. Once you register you can dive into the online community and find inspiration and encouragement…although you had better not spend too much time there or your word count will suffer!

I also like the idea of the deadline. I have found in my own writing life that deadlines are vital to keeping me writing. It’s one of the reasons why short stories have been good writing practice for me. Having to submit something of a certain length by a certain time forces you to be disciplined in your writing, and that is a very good thing, especially for a pantser like me! In fact I find that to being more intentional about goals and deadlines is the only thing that keeps me going with my novel publication dream. If I don’t have a date to shoot for I put things off.

Let’s face it, writing is hard work. Inspiration doesn’t always strike when you need it. In fact it rarely does! Waiting until you feel like writing is fatal, at least for me. Having a writing schedule and  a goal that I am working towards is necessary for me to get anywhere.


So why haven’t I done NaNoWriMo yet? Well, I had already started my book-that-turned-into-three by the time I heard of it. And the process intimidates me a bit, to be honest. I’m not sure I can do it amongst all the other commitments I have.

But that is partially the point. If I know anything about writing I know this: until you are serious enough about it to treat it like a job, where you show up every day and do the work, you will have a hard time meeting your goals. If you truly want to be a published author, you have to treat your writing seriously.

NaNoWriMo is one way to do that. So, perhaps once I am done all three of my books, and am starting another, I should sign up? Or perhaps I could use it as a revision schedule instead of a writing schedule? Hmm…that’s not a bad thought!

At any rate, here’s to all of my fellow writers who have accepted the NaNoWriMo challenge!

May the coffee (and tea) be endless, the words come easily, and the Muse be generous.




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