Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just talkin' 'bout NaNo...

I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2005. I found out about it in mid-October, and even though I hadn't written fiction (certainly not novel-length fiction) in years, I immediately knew I had to do it. Some primal part of my lizard brain knew I needed to write -- it was simply a given. So, if not now, when? One of NaNo's stated goals is the end of the one day novelist: "one day I'll write a novel." Well, that day is November 1, every year. Fish or cut bait.

I wrote approximately 30,000 words that November. So I didn't "win." But holy cow was that a winning number for me. I wrote thirty thousand words that I would never have written otherwise. And it was a blast. Seriously, the most fun ever. Most of those 30K words made it into the final draft of the novel that is currently being queried to agents. I took way too long to finish what I started in November 2005, but I did get it done. And I will always be grateful to NaNo for getting me jumpstarted.

What about the time commitments? Let's be honest, it is a rare person who can't cut out a little t.v. or a little computer time to make room for writing. Plus, NaNoWriMo is a national event! You can show the website to your friends and family and ask them to help... perhaps by taking on some of your household chores for the month? And there's your writing time, right there.

Also, I was working full-time as a litigation attorney for a big firm the first year I did this. And I later discovered that the lawyer in the office next to me was ALSO doing NaNo that year. We got our billable work done, and we wrote in our "down time": while waiting for senior attorneys to return a document to us with edits, while waiting to confirm that all papers were served or filed correctly, during lunch, during our commutes, and at night after work was finally done. Fine, I didn't have kids then. But I promise you, if you want to do this, you can make the time.

What about quality? Hey, they're called first drafts for a reason. And you can edit crappy writing, but you can't edit a blank page.

And, okay, I only wrote 30K words in 2005 because I became committed to a certain level of quality. I kind of tap out at around 1,000 words a day. After that, the quality of writing drops, and my enthusiam for the activity drops. But if I hadn't been trying for 1,667 words per day, I never would have discovered my ability to write 1,000 words per day. At worst, you'll build some great habits about sitting down every day to write something.

Still not sure? Go visit Lianna Brooks's blog today and let her convince you. It IS worth it.

Got more questions about NaNo in general or my experiences in particular? What's the most you've ever written in a day/week/month/year?


  1. Wow, you're a great attorney! You've almost got me, a huge NaNo skeptic, convinced! If I can get a huge chunk of my research done for my next book, then maybe I'll challenge myself to get the first third of my book written in November too!

  2. I wrote about 4000 words in one day last summer (as part of a 10,000 word challenge-- so I didn't meet my goal either, but I was proud anyway).

  3. i'm already convinced. i'm going to try it this year, i believe.

    The Character Therapist

  4. I have pulled 40 000 words out in a month before. But it was during a time where writing was literally what was keeping me going. I love the idea of NaNo. Good luck to you as you do it.

  5. Now I feel kinda bad for not doing more! My best day was about 920 words. I try for 500/day, but working=up to 1667 for next year doesn't seem so far-fetched, when I'm a little more settled into co-parenting. Excuses, excuses...

  6. The most I've ever written was on the last day of NaNoWriMo last year.
    I had 21,000 words on my novel, and I had Sunday as the last day to do my worst to get that count as close to 50,000 as possible.

    I sat down in my room and started typing and I wrote 9,000 words that day. My butt was pretty sore, and I think I only took time to eat one meal that day. But it was worth it.

  7. I just finished the first draft of the novel I started for Nanowrimo last year- I ended last year's Nano with 33K words and it took me a while to finish but finish I did! I'm really looking forward to doing it again this year, and I'd love to actually finish the first draft in November - my Nano project is a middle grade novel so it's a possibility. The most words I've written in a day was about 5,000 - I was quite tired that day afterward!