Books and Writing

NaNoWriMo 2019

I’m going to try to do NaNoWriMo this year. National Novel Writing Month for anyone who isn’t familiar. It’s a challenge for writers across the world, to write an entire book (50,000 words) in the month of November. However, I’m going to do it a bit differently, and I’ll explain that in a minute.

But first, I want to explain why this my first year. I have known about NaNoWriMo since I was a freshman in high school (9 years ago – yikes.) And I tried it that year. But try is a strong word – I wrote a couple of handwritten pages on November 1st, early in the morning before school, and then that was it. I’m not even sure I hit the daily target of 1,667 words. Since then, every single year, NaNo has been something I have looked at longingly, but from a distance. I’ve never been a productive writer. It takes a lot for me to force myself to overcome insecurity, and fear, and self doubt and just actually write. So NaNo provides this tantalizing possibility of actually having written something substantial.

But, of course, I still have to get through November. I still have to write the 50,000 words. I can’t just skip to the “have written.” At some point, I need to write.

It’s easy to find excuses. November is a busy month, with family time blocked out around Thanksgiving, and preparations for Christmas already underway. Up until two years ago, I was in school, and the idea of writing that much, for fun, on top of late midterms and early finals and all of the work in between sounded not just daunting, but downright impossible.

Last year was my first November as a working adult. I’m still busy – I have a 9-5 and some part-time/freelance responsibilities – but my mornings and evenings and lunch breaks are more consistently my own. I don’t have the constant specter of homework hanging over me. But I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think part of it was the sheer scale. I didn’t think I could write 50,000 words in one project. I’ve always been suspicious of my ability to get past 25,000 in a novel project before I just run out of steam and plot points and ideas.

So now we get to this year. I am going to try to do NaNo for the first time, for real (notice I still use the word “try” to give myself an out.) But instead of writing a 50,000 word novel, my goal is to simply write 50,000 words, across as many projects as I want. I want to come out of November with a good chunk of writing done, and I want to work on developing a more consistent writing habit. And I’m okay with coming out of the month without one massive project completed.

I have a novel I’m working on (only about 10,000 words in), as well as short story ideas, creative nonfiction/essay outlines, book reviews, and planned blog posts. I have tentatively divided up the words between these projects, trying to keep the goals reasonable. The biggest chunk of the words (20,000) is still allocated to the novel. I really want to make progress there. But the other 30,000 words are broken up into 2,000-3,000 word chunks across an array of short stories and essays that I have been planning on writing.

The ultimate goal: emerge from November having made progress on all my projects. Which is more than I can say for most months in the past year. I don’t want to say anything about being okay with falling short of the goal, because I don’t want to lower my expectations right from the get-go. But I do want to exercise a little compassion with myself (also something I’m not great at.) I know I’ll feel amazing if I come out of November with 50,000 new words in my projects, but I don’t want to run myself into the ground to get there. So that’s the plan – hard work and compassion and hopefully a boatload of productivity.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How are you feeling about it? Anyone else bending the rules a bit to suit themselves? Let me know!


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