NaNoWriMo

3 Things to Know About NaNoWriMo

3 Things to Know About NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

Are you tired of NaNoWriMo blog posts?! I hope not! Because I definitely have more of them.

I feel like NaNoWriMo is one of those topics that once I get started on it, I actually can’t stop. I just keep talking about it. I have so much to say and for a long time, I kept myself from talking about it. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weird or… worse, ask to read my writing. (No, you can’t! I love you! But you can’t! I’ll die of embarrassment!)

Anyway, all I’m saying is: I have a lot to say. If you’re new to NaNoWriMo, I want to help you get acquainted. I find a lot of joy from NaNoWriMo: it’s really fun to take on a project every year. And every year that I succeed, I remind myself that I can do it. I can complete big projects and hit my goals, even if sometimes I worry that I can’t. And in the process, I write a story that I want to read and I’m all the better for it.

So, what’s this blog post about, you ask? 3 things you need to know for NaNoWriMo. Whether you’re a NaNo newbie or an old hat (I’m so sorry you’re an old hat) (that’s a very good joke, I hope you laughed), here are 3 NaNoFacts that you NaNoNeed.

1. The official word counter on NaNoWriMo has the last word.

And if it’s off, well, you’re out of luck.

Two years ago, I finished my story (51,000 words according to Google Docs!), copied-and-pasted it into the NaNo word counter, and… it was 49,000 words.

That’s right: somehow, my counter in Google Docs was off by 2,000 WORDS. I almost screamed. I threw a tantrum on Twitter. Emailed NaNoWriMo support. Then, I looked at my Google Doc, scrolled up and added onto scenes as needed. Copy and paste again? Still 200 words short. I was nearly in tears. It took me an extra TWO HOURS (I still nearly sob thinking of it!) to wrote those 2,000 missing words. But I did and I did it.

This leads me to this: you can use the NaNoWriMo word counter throughout the month to validate your word count as you go. This helps you know if you’re word processor’s counter is off (and nearly all my processors have been off at some point) and can help you readjust your expectations beforehand. So word to the wise: beware the counters.

2. It’s ok to modify to your specifications.

But Michelle, 1700ish words PER DAY? And then you start crying. (It is Libra season, feel free.)

Here’s what I’m saying: to win NaNoWriMo, you need to write about 1666 words per day for the 30 days of November. However, you can bump that to 2000 words per day and finish faster. Or, if you feel totally overwhelmed by that number, think of it THIS way! 1666 words per day is about 11,667 per week, or 12,000 words per week if you round up slightly.

So, you could think of each week as a big number (12,000 words) that you’re trying to wittle down as fast as possible. Or you could think of each day as a small number.

No matter how you think of it, there are ways to hit that number. (Trust me.)

However, if you really, really hate the idea of trying to write that many words per day and you want to fight it, here’s all I’m going to say: you really don’t have to.

Let’s say you want to do a poetry NaNoWriMo and write 30 poems in 30 days. Great! They don’t need to be 1667 words! You won’t be able to validate them officially, but if you want to write NaNoWriMo your own way, then godspeed, you crazy writer, you.

3. It is possible for anyone to finish.

Sometimes, I find people get caught up in the “can’t” of it all: they can’t because it won’t be good, it won’t get published, they won’t have time, they will get behind, and on and on. Bless them, but here’s the thing: what you write for NaNoWriMo does not have to be good. Isn’t that freeing!? You don’t have to write the next Great American Novel! You don’t even have to write a GOOD novel! But you’re much closer to writing a good novel, a great novel, if you write a novel. So whether you want to write for the fun of it (me) or you’ve always dreamed of publishing (maybe you!), starting now and making yourself finish 50,000 words in 1 month is a bigger step than saying you want to write a novel for 10 years and never getting to it.

Whenever I think about this, I like to this of this quote from Ira Glass:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Even the best writers and best artists have first drafts that are not very good. Good photographers have to take bad photos to start. All I’m saying is this: the sooner you get past writing all the bad stuff that you’ll hate, the sooner you can get to writing stuff that is good, that makes you feel good.

And, it’s time to talk about the time thing. I don’t have a lot of spare time either. I’m a freelance copywriter with a 3 (almost 4!)-year-old, a husband, a dog, and a house. I have friends & family and social events. I have finished NaNoWriMo at least 6 times (it’s kind of hard to remember as I get older, but since 2010!); the only time I didn’t finish was in 2015, when Forrest was a newborn—and even then, I wrote 30,000 words. So yes, if you want to complete NaNoWriMo, you can make the time. You can get ahead and schedule your time well and really go for it—and prove to yourself that you can write. So what are you waiting for? (And you should totally download my free NaNoWriMo planning guide here.)

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November | Writing Between Pauses

I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)

One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?

I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.

Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.

1. Google Docs

I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.

The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.

Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)

2. A Good Playlist

Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.

I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.

Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.

3. A Supportive Team

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.

4. A Few Good Distractions

“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”

Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.

So:

  • Download that show you want to watch

  • Buy the movie you have been looking forward to

  • Make plans with friends

  • Take out a few books from the library

  • Write down a few good recipes to try

Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.

5. A Place for Notes

Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).

But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.

When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work (+ Free Printable)

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work Full-Time | Writing Between Pauses

For those who are new to NaNoWriMo, it can feel huge. Almost impossible.

50,000 words!? In a month?!

Even if you love writing, even if you’ve dreamed of writing a book (you know, you have 400 notebooks full of ideas, or the notes app on your phone with random mishmashed ideas written down), 50,000 words can feel like a lot if you’ve never actually finished a plot.

But I promise you: it’s actually not that huge.

In fact… it’s not even the length of the average novel.

Sorry! I know!

The truth is, 50,000 is usually a starting point for a novel. And it’s a good starting point! If you just want to get words onto paper, 50,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

And NaNoWriMo is honestly the most motivating way to do it.

I do NaNoWriMo every year and have since 2010. Is this my 9th NaNoWriMo? Yes! Am I as excited as I was in 2010? Also yes! I have won some years and not others, but I’m so proud of the years I completed.

As I wrote last year, I don’t write creatively with the focus on publishing. I usually write stories that I can’t stop thinking about, that I want to read. These novels are for me and me only. Maybe in the future, I’ll sit down and cobble them all into something big and maybe with the intention of publishing. But for now, I just love putting words onto paper and getting 50,000 of them out in the semblance of a story.

If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo, I have some advice to help you. If you work full time, planning and writing can seem like a big, huge task. I’ve broken it down here for you.

Before we jump into my tips though, I wanted to make sure to share my previous NaNoWriMo blog posts!

Now, without further ado, let’s talking: working, planning, & winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Schedule your time.

I’m a big fan of scheduling my time. Since I’ve gone freelance, I usually dedicate my mornings to freelance & client work. Then, in the afternoon, I work on my blog or any creative writing I’ve been planning. I usually mark this out in my Google Calendar, then in my daily planner, along with my to do list.

During NaNoWriMo, I will often add NaNoWriMo specific time periods. For example, if I plan to drop my son off at school in the morning, I’ll plan to go to the library and write for an hour before heading home to work. This gets me out of the house; encourages me to dedicate at least an hour to NaNoWriMo; and allows me to look forward to it, especially if I’ve been thinking of the story.

Think of the time you have during the day. Could you take your lunch break at a coffee shop and write while you eat? Could you spare an hour right after work to write? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Think of your typical day and schedule your time accordingly.

2. Write an outline, of course.

I’m a big fan of outlining. I know some people prefer a “pants” (that is “flying by the seat of your pants”) approach to NaNoWriMo, but I think most pantsers are the ones nervous about finishing or failing. (Although I would argue not finishing NaNoWriMo isn’t “failure.”)

If you have time to get ready for NaNoWriMo, then surely you have time to write an outline, even a rudimentary one.

I’ve written outlines for 8 out of 9 NaNos. Only the first year was I pantser, and while I finished, it’s one of the most disjointed things I’ve ever written. I haven’t won every NaNo; there have been 2 years when I outlined, when I didn’t finish. 2013: I cannot remember why. And 2015: when I had just had my son.

Outlining is a huge help. So, write an outline. At the end of this blog post, I have a handy-dandy guide which includes an outline exactly how I outline my NaNo novels.

3. Be realistic.

Plain and simple: if you work a high stress job, or you work and have kids, it’s important to be realistic. Every year, I approach NaNoWriMo with the idea that if I finish, I’ll be excited; but if I don’t, it’s ok. There is no reason to beat myself up for it. I’m busy and I have a lot going on! NaNoWriMo makes me happy, but if it starts to feel like a burden, I know I need to take a break or stop completely.

All I’m saying here is this: be realistic about your expectations of NaNoWriMo. If you already get up at 6am, you aren’t going to feel good waking up an hour early to write. If your job demands your full attention from the moment you get there to the moment you leave, you aren’t going to be able to break away for a few sneaky NaNo words.

4. Download my free planning guide.

It goes without saying that having a plan in place is so important to finishing NaNoWriMo, especially if you already have huge demands on your time, like work, kids, grad school… you name it. I put together a planning guide to help you get a few pieces in place.

My planning guide includes:

  • A schedule to help you plan your days, as well as write down some spots you like to write & your favorite writing tools, so you know what to grab everyday when you’re leaving your house.

  • An outline guide to help you plan your outline. This follows my guide that I write about in this blog post here.

  • A self-care worksheet to help you write down some ideas for taking a break and keeping your stress level down.

Do you have questions about NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing?

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing? | Writing Between Pauses

I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)

However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.

I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.

And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.

1. Find a beta

Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.

2. Write a list of scenes

One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.

3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite

Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.

4. Print it out

If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.

Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.

What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?

4 Things To Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo

4 Things to Do To Prepare for NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

It’s NaNoWriMo prep season. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I have a blog post for that. But long story short, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event where everyone tries to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010; I’ve won 5 times so far, which means I have 5 50,000 word novels floating around. For some, NaNoWriMo is a chance to binge write a novel they’ve been working on for years. For others, NaNoWriMo is just a fun month to write a novel.

For me, NaNoWriMo is all about having fun, writing a novel that I want to read, and feeling the joy of success afterwards. Usually, by November, I’m feeling a little “burnt out”—I spend most of my waking hours grappling with words in some form of another. I work as a digital marketing content strategist and copywriter; I maintain a blog; and my main hobby is creative writing.

However, oddly enough, November is often the thing that refreshes me for the next 12 months. It is sandwiched between my two big blogging challenges, Blogtober and Blogmas, so by January 1, I’m feeling decidedly ready for anything.

I’ve written a lot of posts about NaNoWriMo previously, especially about how I handle the task while also caring for a child. I’ve shared my planning strategy for NaNoWriMo, my typical prep, my tips for succeeding, and preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 steps.

Every year, I feel like I tweak my NaNoWriMo process just a little bit in a way that makes a huge difference in my ability to succeed. This year, I want to share not just how I am preparing for NaNoWriMo, but also my schedule for doing so. So these 4 steps are all about setting deadlines for myself.

Ready to prep for NaNoWriMo? If you’re planning to go for your first NaNo this year, or you’re an old timer like me, I hope you find some value in this timeline. Let’s jump in!

1. By October 10: Pick a Topic & Sketch Your Plot

By October 10, you should know the basic form of your novel: the genre, what happens, and a few climactic points you want to hit in your writing. This is always my first step when beginning to prepare for NaNoWriMo (and I’ve outlined it in detail before in my posts). But my basic process is to have a notebook or Google doc dedicated to notes for my novel where I include all the basic information. This includes:

  • All my characters names, basic descriptions, and basic information that may come up (like birthdays, important events, and character traits)

  • A synopsis of the novel

  • and at least 3 important plot points, twists, or scenes I need to include for the plot

From here, I can begin working on the outline of my novel.

2. By mid-October: Write an Outline

Speaking of outlines, I always write from an outline for NaNoWriMo. That is: I’m a planner, not a pantser (aka flying by the seat of my pants). I divide the 50,000 word minimum into 10 chapters of 5,000 words and then divide each chapter into 5 1,000 word scenes. I then plan out each scene in basic detail: my point for a scene might be anything from “introduce [character]” to “[character 1] fights with [character 2]” to already fleshed out dialogue and scene details. They can be vague or descriptive. But the important thing is: I get the outline on paper so that I never find myself stuck on day 10 of November.

I try to have my outline completed and in a Google doc by October 15, or October 20 at the absolute latest. This makes the run up to November way less stressful.

3. By October 20: Sign Up on NaNoWriMo

This is a basic step, but every year, I find myself scrambling to remember my NaNoWriMo password. It was only last year that I reminded myself (by putting it on my calendar) to log in to NaNoWriMo.org before November 1 to set up my novel. Tracking my word count is a lot easier when I use the NaNoWriMo website because it gives me a daily word average, an average words per day I have to write to get to 50,000 words, and much more, as well as a graph of how I’m doing comparatively to everyone else. Plus, to officially win, you have to validate through the NaNoWriMo website. So, sign up at nanowrimo.org by October 20!

4. By October 30: Plan Your Writing Schedule

I’ve mentioned before that in November, I keep my schedule really strict when it comes to writing. I set aside two hours every night (or on the weekend, every morning) to really get writing done. And in that time, I have to meet my daily goal or exceed it. If I don’t, I’ll probably fall behind—and once I fall behind, it’s really difficult to catch up again! So, by the end of October (but before Halloween, because obviously, you need that night to celebrate!), have an idea of what your writing schedule will be. Maybe you’ll take your laptop to Starbucks every day during lunch to write. Or maybe, you’ll wake up an hour earlier to get writing done that way. No matter what, pick a schedule that works for you—you can even test it out a few days in October to see if it’s good for you—and stick to it.

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote last week about what NaNoWriMo is and why I personally choose to participate. 

This week, I wanted to talk about my NaNoWriMo process. I’ve touched on this a few times here and here, but I’ve never gone in depth. 

I have a really specific process for outlining for NaNoWriMo. You read that correctly: I’m a planner, not a pantser. (Confused by those terms? Click here.) 

The very first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser—and it is crystal clear in the novel I produced! It is easily my weakest year. However, since then, I’ve written outlines and followed a detailed plan. I’ve worked out a system that absolutely works for me and if you’re already struggling to stay afloat this month, I think it can work for you too. 

1. Write a Synopsis

First things first, I write a brief synopsis. This is just my idea. Usually, it’s something very simple like: a marathon runner witnesses a gruesome murder. As she tries to put the pieces back together, the victim’s identical twin destroys evidence of her sister’s secret life. This is the basis of my idea: no more, no less. (This synopsis is verbatim from my 2013 novel.) 

2. Write 3 plot crucial points. 

The first point is usually the beginning piece of information in the synopsis; in my example, it’s the murder that the runner witnesses. The second point is usually the climax of the story, when the tension is highest; in my example, the climax was the arrest of the killer. The third point in the conclusion; in this case, it’s the murderers trial. 

3. Start Your Outline

From there, you have all the information you need: beginning, middle, and end. Now, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. When it comes to writing a detailed outline, I have a very specific process. Here it is. 

A NaNoWriMo novel is 50,000 words; so, I plan 10 chapters that are 5,000 words, at least, each. Each chapter has 5 scenes of at least 1,000 words. If I can plan more words or more scenes, that’s great, but that is the bare minimum. 

On my outline, I name each chapter, identify each scene, and briefly describe each scene. It might be something as simple as, Rory, the runner, returns home to find her boyfriend, James, has left her a letter. Or, it might be something as complicated as: Molly returns home to search her sister’s bedroom, where she finds a black notebook that her sister used to journal and a stash of cash, as well as other assorted possessions that seem out-of-character. 

I also usually place my big three plot points: the beginning plot point usually goes in chapter 1 or 2; the climax usually occurs somewhere between chapter 6 and chapter 8, and then chapters 9-10 deal with the conclusion. 

Outlining in this way always gives me a scene to work towards and a goal to hit. I know when I start a new scene, I need to write a bare minimum of 1,000 words. And as I’m writing through the month, I may add additional scenes or break scenes up into small, vignette-style scenes… but I always have something to move on to, even if I’m experiencing writer’s block. 

4. Edit your outline. 

I usually write my outline in September. Yep, September! Then, in late October, I read over the entire thing and make any changes: I add details, write character descriptions, move scenes around, add scenes, change plot points… Basically, I fine tune everything so that when November starts, it’s as easy as pie. 

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo? | Writing Between Pauses

Oh, you thought I'd take a break after Blogtober? Well, that would probably be a good idea. Instead, I'm taking on NaNoWriMo and I plan to blog through the entire month. Wow! Also, I'm pre-writing December content for Blogmas. Uh oh, I've overbooked myself! 

It was 2010 when I decided to take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’d heard of it through a few friends throughout college—I distinctly remember one of my good friends making an attempt in 2009—but I’d never committed to it myself. I knew I was better at writing short form than long form and I felt pigeon holed into that. 

However my senior year, I was living alone in a little apartment off campus without heating; I had a lot of spare time despite having a full schedule. I spent a lot of time with friends, or studying in the library, or working out in my apartment just to stay warm. I figured I might as well fill the time and take on something big, right? 

2010 was the first year I won. I won in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 as well. I don’t think I attempted in 2011; I can’t totally remember and I can’t find any evidence of a story, that’s for sure! It should go without saying: that first novel in 2010 was bad. I distinctly remember halfway through the month losing my notes I’d written—so I suddenly couldn’t recall how old characters were, their full names, how they were related. Halfway through, it just turned into a brain dump mess. 

My novels have steadily gotten better since then. 2010 was tragic, and so was 2012; 2013 has a good idea and I remember really liking what I wrote, but reading through it recently, it is also tragic. 2014 is quite good; with a little hard work, I think it could be really good. And 2016 is my best novel yet and, funny enough, was the easiest year I can remember winning. I was always ahead on my daily work count. 

As I go into my 6th time doing NaNoWriMo, I wanted to talk about what NaNoWriMo is and why I do it. 

What is NaNoWriMo? 

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka November. It’s a month where writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You write round 1,670 words a day. You can sign up on NaNoWriMo.org to officially commit (it’s free, don’t worry) and be verified through their word counting system. (Although, as a warning, their word counting system is always at least 4,000 words off my word documents counter! So write more than 50,000 before you verify or you’ll be mad.) 

For lots of writers, NaNoWriMo gives them a community to work on their writing skills, get inspiration and feedback, and find kinship with other people. 

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

I recently posted a thread on Twitter about how I don’t do NaNoWriMo, and I don’t write in general, with any thought of publishing. The truth is, I don’t want to be published. I used to think that was my dream, but I realize now that it’s just not something I want to pursue; I am happy to write my passion projects, the books I want to read, and leave them at the end. I love the novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo and even my husband says I should attempt to get it published; but I just don’t want to! It’s too personal. I write because it’s my hobby, because it’s how I motivate myself, because I need to create to feel happy. But for me, publishing isn’t the end goal. 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? 

Is it your first year taking on NaNoWriMo? Or are you an old timer like me? I’d love to connect with you on Twitter so we can motivate each other, talk about our books, and grouse about the NaNoWriMo word counter! Follow me here and send me a note! 

4 More Lessons I Learned From NaNoWriMo in 2016

When I completed NaNoWriMo in 2014, I wrote a great post about lessons I learned. Reading through that list, I still identify with everything I wrote previously. It's funny, at the end, to see how excited I am for the next year--without knowing that in 3 months, I would be pregnant. It's weird looking back on statements like that and laughing at how much your life can change in a few months (isn't that what blogs are great for, though?). 

I thought I would revisit this post and share a few more lessons I've learned from NaNoWriMo--especially my first successful November as a parent! 

1. I have to prioritize where I put my energy.

I say this frequently, but when I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. In November, I often find myself pulled in a hundred different directions: I do NaNoWriMo; I'm working; I have Forrest; and I have an entire house to take care of. Personally, I find it very easy to just shut down and not really achieve anything in that time frame! 

However, I find that if I prioritize, I can get everything done without getting overwhelmed. But that also means, I have to let some things fall to the side. Notice how I barely blogged in November? Yeah, it was because I was trying to do NaNoWriMo, work my day job, and keep myself and a toddler alive. These things happen. C'est la vie! 

2. Get ahead while you can.

In previous NaNoWriMos, I've kept myself to a strict daily word count. I usually didn't write ahead more than 500 words or so. And each year, I've gotten behind and had to spend weekends catching up, which meant I got very quickly exhausted.  

I feel like this lesson is true of everything in life--not just NaNoWriMo. When you can, work ahead. For example, I have a cleaning schedule I try to keep: on Fridays, I tidy the entryway; on Saturdays, I clean the bathrooms, etc. However, if I'm feeling motivated, I'll clean the entryway and clean the bathrooms on the very same day. I know, living on the edge there! 

This year, I ended up writing my first 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo in the first few days. By November 15, I was 15,000 words from winning. I wrote ahead--I let myself write as often as I could without falling behind on my other responsibilities and it paid off. It helped that I was writing a story that I'd been thinking of for months, but having a buffer really made me more comfortable and I was able to write with joy, rather than stressing to stay on deadline. 

3. It's ok to think NaNoWriMo is stifling. 

As much as I love NaNoWriMo (and this being my 5th year completing, I do love it), I also inevitably start to wonder how, as a practice, it inhibits or improves my creativity. 

Ultimately, what we take away from NaNoWriMo is up to us--and it's ok to love it as an idea, but also ultimately believe it to be stifling. You don't have to follow the rules of NaNoWriMo to the letter; it's your novel and your life. Do what you want! 

However, you often see NaNoWriMo critics emerging in early November, talking about how NaNoWriMo is a time for "writer-wannabes" (ok) to emerge and dedicate one month of the year to writing. Not only is this a totally unfair statement which I've seen way too many supposedly professional writers state, it also ignores the point of NaNoWriMo. 

The point of NaNoWriMo isn't to be a professional writer and write your perfect dream novel in a month. NaNoWriMo is about empowering more people to write, to make time for writing and creativity, and to enjoy their lives. 

That's it! That's all that NaNoWriMo is about. 

It's ok to think it's stifling. It's ok to get to November 30 and think, "Well, that sucked." It's ok to feel like you wrote a crapper of a novel. (I have had that feeling many times myself.) But the most important thing is, if you completed a novel, you proved that you can write every day. Enough to pile up the words. And that's pretty monumental. 

4. When I read more, I write more. 

At the end of October, I signed up for Kindle Unlimited. Since then, I have read 46 books.

46 books

I know. It's actually kind of embarrassing. In that time, I have written more, and felt more creative, than ever before. I have started to realize that if I want to write--and I mean, really write in a way that is productive and meaningful--I have to keep my reading habit. Which, thanks to Kindle Unlimited, is totally possible. Even if I'm reading the most embarrassing, sappy romance novels of all time. 


Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn about yourself, about creativity, or about life in general?