Why I Keep Coming Back for More NaNoWriMo

2015 Novel Stats

I was reading an article this morning over at Author’s Think Tank that aptly referred to NaNoWriMo as a “50,000-word slog”. I chuckled a little.

Writing 50, 000 words in thirty days is hard. Not gonna lie.

At an average of 1,666 words per day, for me personally, that’s a solid two hour + time commitment every day (though towards the end of the month I was able to do 800-1,000 per hour). Of course, this November, I was, for the first time since my first NaNoWriMo in 2012, behind in word count pretty much Every. Single. Day.

During the last week I had to do 2,500 words a day just to finish on time-you know, over Thanksgiving-a time when you’re supposed to be relaxing, kicking back. I haven’t had a truly relaxing Thanksgiving for four years.

It was nice that we were visiting family and my usual household duties weren’t around to lure me away from the computer. Every minute I wasn’t doing fun family stuff I was writing. Also, my kids are now old enough that riding on an airplane isn’t a four hour trial of patience (I wrote 1,500 words on the 3 1/2 hour trip back home on Sunday – which I thought was pretty awesome).

I’ve included a lovely infographic below just to prove that this was not my banner year.


NaNoWriMo Stats 2012-2015

I did better last year when the thing I’d written by the end didn’t have a clear ending – and which I’ve been struggling to fix all year.

So what happened? Have I learned nothing in the last three years?

In my last post I wrote about how I was intimidated by my idea.  It’s still true. It’s not an easy concept. The mantra I kept repeating to myself every time I felt uninspired or bored with the plot was “VISUALS and ACTION.”

I like writing action-I’m still learning but I like writing action even if turns out terrible. Visuals on the other hand are not my forte. At all. I don’t think I’m good at describing things. So even if I have something in my head, it’s almost impossible to get it on the page. But I keep TRYING. I guess that’s all that matters.

Also, I didn’t have names for any of the places or people, so I used bracketed placeholders instead (like [BIGCITY] and [BESTFRIEND]-though [BESTFRIEND] does have a name now). My daughter was not convinced this was a good strategy:

Twitter 11-1-15

She’s a tough critic.

I’d done some plot planning ahead of time but about mid month I’d written what I had ‘planned’ and then I had to ask the question, what happens now? And I was two full days behind at that point (that’s 3,333 words).

Twitter 11-17-15


At least I figured out an ending-which I still like so it’ll probably stay:

Twitter 11-18-15

I finished on November 30th with three hours to spare – and then discovered that the little app NaNoWriMo uses to calculate your word count doesn’t play nice with the ellipses and hyphens  that I use (a lot) in my dialogue. I came up 400 words short, so I had to go back and strip them out. Find and replace: you complete me.

There’s still so much work to do: side characters to add/cut, place and character names to figure out, creating some kind of map…

Even though I was behind in word count all month, I feel like this novel is more cohesive than projects I’ve done for NaNoWriMo in the past. I wanted to get it right-or as close to right as I could on the first shot, and that took more time. This NaNoWriMo wasn’t about just throwing words on the page.

The good news is: I’m not ready to toss my story in the closet to look at in a few months, which has not been the case in the past.

So, why do I even bother with this when it’s such a harrowing experience every year?

The reason is that I owe NaNoWriMo a lot. Three years ago, it got me writing after years and years of finding excuses not to even try. I finished a novel less than a year later because of two rounds of CampNaNoWriMo.

Me – serial manuscript non-finisher finished a novel.

Today, NaNoWriMo forces me to be brave and sit in the chair and write even if I’m not 100% sure about the plot or where it’s going or who the characters are…Which is ultimately how I want to be year round: every day, sitting in my chair, writing.

Eventually, I want to produce something that other people will want to read. I’m not there yet, but NaNoWriMo has made me a better writer because practice really does make perfect. I’m far from perfect (passable, maybe), but I  don’t cringe any more when I go back and read what I’ve written.

For me, NaNoWriMo is a test.

If I can get through the word slog year after year and still enjoy writing, well, then I must really love writing.

Twitter 11-30-15


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