The Dirty Truth About National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Truth-About-Nanowrimo-Nicole-Lautore

Can you believe we only have 24 days until the first of November? How crazy is that! Time flies. With November brings my favorite writing event of the year: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, where crazies like me attempt at 50,000 words in 30 days.

If you can’t tell from my Twitter feed, and constant name dropping in my blogs, I am a huge advocate of Nano. I have been participating since I was a Junior in High School, and have been hooked ever since. It truly is worth all of the effort.

However, there are a few nitty gritty facts I’d like to share with you. From my experience winning and terribly, terribly losing both Nano and the yearly camps in the Spring, I think you’ll find there are a few things you just weren’t prepared for.

It truly is a lot of work > I know you might think you’re prepared to write almost 2,000 words per day, but if this isn’t already a pretty normal part of your writing routine, you are going to struggle. And I mean really struggle. As a young married woman with a full time job and a plate full of responsibilities, I can tell you that this next month will not be a cake walk. No matter how much planning you’ve done.

The inspiration won’t just “happen” > Some people have it in their heads that they can only get a good amount of writing done during this event. There are others who think that just because Nano will be banging on their door, the words will just come. Neither of these are true. You’re going to have to keep yourself inspired, ignore your inner critic, and walk right past writers block. You simply won’t have time to deal with these everyday road blocks in November.

Get used to saying “no” > Your friends will ask you to a movie. Your husband will request going out for dinner. Your Mom will try to have hour long conversations on the phone. Get used to telling the people in your life that you have to spend November focusing on YOU. A good way to nip this in the butt early is to tell the people you love what you plan on doing next month. That way, it won’t come as a shock to them that you’ve boarded up all the windows and spent 8 hours curled into a ball on your office floor.

You’ll Make sacrifices > I love to cook. Especially creative, healthy, Pinteresty meals. I won’t have time for that next month. I also love to play video games. I like to draw. That’s going to be cut down dramatically. You have to make sacrifices next month to reach your goals. However, the end result is so worth cutting down on other things for 30 days.

Not everyone in your life will support your endeavor > I have friends that think this whole thing is really stupid. Some of my favorite authors have been very vocal about opposing the method. It’s okay. November truly is about focusing on you and your dreams. Ignore what other people say about it until after you’ve typed that 50,000th word. You won’t know if this works for you unless you try, and you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Your novel WILL NOT be ready to publish by the end > Once you’re done writing this beast, you have a whole new journey of editing and beta reading ahead of you. It’s a great journey, so don’t get discouraged. Just focus on the task hand, and let the idea that “this is not the end result” drive you to take chances in your writing. As they say, write with reckless abandon!

Your going to want to quit > The first week will be a breeze. You’ll float right by your word goal. The next week will be a little harder. By the third week you’ll be waving a white flag, asking why in the hell you ever agreed to do this. Nano is not to be taken lightly. It is a huge accomplishment by the end. Do. Not. Quit. If you start to feel like you should stop, hop on Twitter and tell someone. Go to the NaNoWriMo site and read the forums. Everyone feels the same way you do, but you must push on.

Here’s why all of these things are okay: This is your dream, not your family’s. Not your dog’s. Not your neighbor. This is for you. Remember that when facing the 2 AM word sprints, with absolutely no recollection of where you are or where your going. Things are going to get really hard next month. You’re going to question yourself as a writer. You’re going to want to throw in the towel. But all these things I just mentioned are what makes reaching your end goal so damn rewarding. Absolutely nothing worth having comes easy.

What were you surprised by the first time your participated? What in this list came easier for you than others? Catch me on Twitter @NicoleLautore or leave a comment below!

Also, I’d just like to add, if you are feeling discouraged or out of the game next month, I want to open my door to you on Twitter. I am always ready to listen and give feedback to anyone. All you have to do is Tweet to me, or DM me, and I’ll be glad to help. NaNo has given writers the opportunity to make writing a team effort, and I am on your team. So let’s win this thing!

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Comments

  1. Amen to all these things. Especially about being married, working full-time, and having other hobbies. Glad to know I’m not the only one! I always struggle through NaNo like it’s a burden, but there’s nothing like having 50,000+ new words to a novel. It’s worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

    1. You are definitely not the only one! And I totally agree, it is SO worth all the effort. It doesn’t always feel that way DURING Nano, but by the end of it I’m glad I started. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! It’s very much appreciated!

  2. All good points!

    NaNoWriMo was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The positive peer pressure really helps on those days you feel overwhelmed. Knowing thousands of other people are out there going through the same challenges is inspiring.

    Most importantly, NaNoWriMo forces you to make your writing a priority. It’s amazing to see what you can accomplish when that happens!

    1. All true! That’s one thing I struggled with before I started participating: making my writing a priority. I told my husband a few weeks ago that this November I am going to treat my writing projects as I do my day job, and really commit to them.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I couldn’t agree with you more!

  3. This list is amazing. The first time I did NaNoWriMo was a test for me — could I do this “writing thing”? Thanks to my competitive nature I didn’t let anything get in my way and I poured out 50K words in a little over two weeks.
    That should be awesome — and it is, of course — but I didn’t allow myself to truly experience NaNo to the fullest. As a result I failed triumphantly on my next two attempts. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t let the family in on the plan. I didn’t reach out when I felt blocked.
    It wasn’t until a Camp NaNo until I learned all of these wonderful things you have discussed in your post.
    I am torn about how to use this November. I still have the two first drafts from my successful Nanos, and one of them has been my major editing focus for the last four months. The decision I have to make (and soon!) is whether I will write something new for NaNoWriMo, or if I will do my first ever NaNoEdMo and try to finish editing my novel in the month.
    Decisions, decisions…
    Good luck and happy writing to you!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! Also: TWO WEEKS?! You are a beast. That is amazing. But I can totally see where pacing yourself may be an issue.

      You should most definitely write something for NaNo this year! If you’ve been editing for a while it may be beneficial for you to set that project aside and start writing a new one, just to keep your writing muscles strong. However, you could also use November as a copy-editing month and work on your existing projects. You really can’t lose 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a lovely comment! Happy writing!

  4. This is beautiful, Nicole! I am so in love with NaNoWriMo, but it’s also the hardest frickin thing I attempt every year. I am determined to win for the first time this year, so I’ve been hardcore setting myself up for success. I usually get crazy stuck by the middle due to poor novel planning. Fixing that ish now! ha ha! Good luck with your NaNo novel!

    1. Same here! I couldn’t agree with you more. I have the same problems as well…I get about halfway and then I hit a wall due to little planning on my part. I know we’ll both kick some butt this year!

      See you around! 🙂

    • Claire
    • October 18, 2015

    This is my first year attempting NaNoWriMo. I’ve been writing for decades and …not submitting. I’ve been revising an almost finished novel and a series of short stories. For the past two months, I’m getting up at 5 am to write, balanced my work hours better (I’m a mental health therapist), and decided last week I wanted to go for NaNoWriMo. And I’m not moving! Yikes. I don’t want to stop working on the others But I have to get the outline down. Guess I need some encouragement. I’m also traveling during Thanksgiving as in driving from Illinois to Georgia and back as the primary driver. It will be tough, but I think it’s possible.

    • Claire
    • October 18, 2015

    Hi, your website was a ‘commitment saver!’ Thank you for the outline tips! I just learned about NaNoWriMo about 10 days ago and committed. Gut instinct and now my gut is not happy. I’ve been writing off and on for decades with four completed novels. And not submitting.
    Almost three months ago, I began waking at 5 am every day to write and haven’t missed a day. Now I’m torn between putting down the novel I’m revising and the short stories that are being written/revised on alternative days. I think I can win, but it will be tough. An idea somewhat carved from a previous novel – pieces only with a new twist and new protagnonist in a new genre. I’m excited. I have to travel this month with includes 4 days of me driving 12 hours.
    I am hoping this is another turning point toward a career.
    Thank you again.
    Claire

  5. Yep, dead on all points. And I love it! Can’t wait to start my new book. All researched, outlined, and ready to go!

    1. Yay! Do we follow each other on Twitter? I’d love to venture NaNo with you 🙂 @NicoleLautore

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it!

  6. I never participated in this before, though I see it everywhere. I think I’ll make it a goal to finish my WIP by the end of the month. And by finish, as you say, I mean finish the rough draft. I’m about 11k in already, so I have a head start. Is that cheating?

    I enjoyed your post. Thanks!

    1. In my opinion there is no such thing as “cheating” in NaNoWriMo, because it’s just a personal journey. If I were you, I would go sign up on the website, and don’t put your existing 11K towards your word count. So that at the end of the month, you’ll have written 50K during November, but have 66K total for your novel at the end of the month. Does that make sense? 66K is usually a good size, if not small, for an adult novel.

      Let me know if you need any help next month 🙂 And thank you so much for commenting!

  7. This will be my first attempt with NaNo. I’ve considered it several times. Giving myself permission to do something for “me” is incredibly difficult. We’ll see. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I totally know what you mean! This will be my first NaNo as a married woman, and I feel incredibly bad I’ll probably be neglecting my husband for a month. We can do it, though! NaNo is so incredibly rewarding, and even if I don’t finish, I never regret it. 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, I’m so glad you enjoyed the tips!

    • kelsee
    • October 18, 2015

    So true. I’ve attempted nanowrimo every year and fail. I come in enthused and ready to swing the bat but after a couple days not getting 2,000 words in I become so overwhelmed and I give up. I hope to do well this year! My nanowrimo account is xKELSEEx

  8. Really enjoyed your post. This year will be my 10th NaNo and like you I couldn’t endorse it more. It’s a great experience, especially if it’s an all-inclusinve experience. If you don’t only focus on your novel, but on the community as well. If you cheer along with your buddies, if you hang around the forums.
    I think NaNo community can really give a lot if one is open to the experience. You’re much more likely to cross the finish line if you don’t just focus on yourself 🙂

    1. That’s so true! That’s why I always tell people it is a win/win situation. You may lose, but you could walk away with 25,000 more words than you had before PLUS a ton of great writer friends at your side to help you keep going. Great points!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  9. Everything you mention is absolutely true. But as you said, even if you don’t make 50k, you still have more than you started with so win-win. One of my favorite aspects of NaNo is going to write-up and meeting new writers of every kind.

    Thanks for sharing as I psyche myself up for the tragedy and triumph that NaNoWriMo.

    Happy writing everyone!

    1. Exactly! You’re going to do great 🙂

  10. It’s been about five years since I’ve participated in a NaNo. Before that I did three of them. But reading this has made me think maybe I’m ready to get back on the horse. I’ve taken a “break” from writing…I’m also a wedding photographer, which takes a ton of my time. But writing lives somewhere deep in my bones, in a place where I can’t shake it off and think my life will be okay. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement! Also, just followed you on Twitter! I’m @ssutherlinphoto. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Stephanie! I’m so glad you’re getting back to it! Also, I followed you back on Twitter 😉 See you around, and good luck at NaNo!

    • Kimberly B.
    • October 22, 2015

    Hi Nicole!

    This will be my seventh time doing NaNoWriMo, and it really is great experience! I have done it when I was out of work, in the middle of moving, and traveling for my sister’s wedding, and hit 50,000 words every time (hope I didn’t just jinx myself!). I find that NaNo is very helpful for shutting down my inner editor, who might otherwise send me ’round in circles looking for the perfect phrasing, and in discovering free time in my schedule I didn’t know I had. I write during my lunch hour and instead of messing around on the internet after work, let myself get behind on all my TV shows and stop playing games. Then, in December, I marathon Agents of SHIELD (or whatever) as a reward for all my hard work.
    Oh, and I really love the author pep talks, too.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Kim

    1. Wow, seventh! That is fantastic. I’m so glad to meet a fellow NaNo-enthusiast! I also am forced to write during my lunch hour and push back on video games and tv shows, but as you mentioned, it’s all worth it in the end! December will definitely be Netflix binge watching month. 😉

      Thanks for comment, Kimberly!

  11. the first time I tried NaNo, I failed. I tried again and failed again.
    Last year, I started strong then withered away in the middle of the month but I was determined I would NOT FAIL AGAIN. So I buckled down and I wrote my last 15K words in the last weekend. It was brutal but when I was done, I was the happiest I’d been in a long time.
    I haven’t tried to edit it yet. Too many other projects on the burners. But I am doing it again this year. I have a novel in mind, and next week. I plan to work on the outline and keep to a strict schedule of 2K words per day.
    I’ll be following you to keep you motivated and I hope you’ll follow me to. I’ll need all the loving I can get. ?

    1. Definitely! I admire your discipline to buckle down and get it finished. I too have failed many, many NaNos in the past. I’m sure we’ll both kick butt this year! 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  12. My family knows not to expect laundry to be folded in the month of November. My sister doesn’t understand that I’m buried in five loads right now and I CANNOT go hang out with her tomorrow because I need my house and laundry in order before Nov 1st! ACK!

    1. Yep, I totally understand that. I try to get all my “housework” done right before November so I can hold off on doing it at least until I’ve found my rhythm. They will understand when you type that last word at the end of the month and they can share your accomplishment with you! 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  13. I did Nano for the first time in 2014 and spent the last 11 months rewriting those 50,000 words (plus a few more). I wanted to chuck it in so many times. I was in two minds as to whether to join in this year, thinking I should spend more time on editing the 2014 novel instead. But having decided to have a go after all, that gave me the push to stop fiddling with the 2014 novel, call it ‘good enough’ because it’s never ever going to feel perfect, and get it out to some beta readers. And now that I’ve got something new to look forward to, I’m feeling really positive. Best of luck to everyone taking part this year.

    1. All so true! I always encourage people to take a break during the month of November to tackle something new, especially if they’ve been in the editing stages for a while. Our novels are like our babies and sometimes it feels impossible to let them leave home, but you did the right thing! And you’ll be a better writer for it.

      I’m looking forward to doing NaNo with you! Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂 <3

    • Keith McComb
    • January 24, 2016

    I love this post. I use NaNo to stretch myself in odd ways. I once did the two weeks thing as well. I had easily made the 50K the year prior (reaching almost 100K), so that year, I decided to see if I could do TWO 50K stories. (And won.) I try to find something in every run to keep it interesting.

    So far, it’s worked.

    1. I’m glad you loved it! And it sounds to me like you’re really good at pumping out the word count. I struggle with 50K in 30 days, let alone 100K! It’s really cool that you’re finding ways to challenge yourself. Great job!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it. 🙂

        • Keith McComb
        • January 26, 2016

        I struggle as well sometimes. Right now, I’m rewriting a scene. I know where it needs to go (plot-wise, not where in the manuscript), but the words won’t come. But there are days when I can sit down at the computer and realize that i just ended up pumping out 20% of a NaNo win. *laugh*

        And that’s my problem sometimes. I then have to go through and annihilate so many of those words, because they’re blocking the real story from being told.

  14. Thank you. Super late to this post but November 1 is now marked on my calendar.

    1. Good! I’m glad. NaNoWriMo is extremely beneficial to everyone. 🙂

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