Rocking the NaNoWriMo


National Novel Writing Month is a really neat idea, and the core idea is actually good for writers almost all the time. Write. Write without your editor’s cap until you are finished. And that is cool, but what I love about NaNoWriMo is the accountability and the experience. It’s just different. There are all levels of players there for different reasons. Some will give up early on, others will have all intentions of “knocking it out of the park.” Most will finish by the skin of their teeth, while a handful will overachieve and reach the 50K long before the month is finished…and we will collectively hate them…I mean cheer for them. Yes, cheer.

NaNoWriMo kind of reminds me of running a 10K to support breast cancer awareness. Early morning. The finish line is somewhere off past a winding trail and out of sight. Everyone is excited and hopeful. There is an amazing mix of all kinds of people.

There are the professional runners who are going to blast ahead. They are concerned with their time and might even have sponsors. Often they are wearing some outfit that, in any other place, would get them a ticket for public indecency. A race is generally one of the few places one can see straight men in shorts that look like Daisy Dukes and wind-shorts had a baby and no one makes fun of them.

One can also see the folks who are in respectable shape. Been hitting the gym regularly enough to actually jog the entire 10K.

The there will be people like me, who would normally would only consider running 10K if an ax-murderer were behind them, and even then, after 5 we would seriously just consider letting said ax-murdered go ahead because we want to die anyway. Yes, we are the final and probably most common group. We are the out of shape (but well-meaning) people who are only there because of peer pressure and to support a really great cause. We gather in the cold morning air wearing sweatpants we found stored with the Christmas ornaments and running shoes so new they still have the price tag on the sole (Hey, I didn’t see it there). Most of us are clutching a cup of coffee and wondering if we parked too far away. Will we need a taxi once this thing is over?

The several times in my life I have “run” in a 10K (I will use the verb “run” very loosely) I actually ran the entire thing…even if it was like that bouncy duck-walking run that is probably slower than walking but looks to others like you haven’t punked out and stopped running. Why? I hate running. Always have. And yet there is something about all those other people around me that makes me suck it up and go. Just Do It.

I feel so Nike.

Yeah, Nike. It’s a new word. Just made it up.

Anyway, on Twitter it is fun to watch all the participants, just like race day. There are those who bust out 10K words a day and finish their 50K in the first week (professional runners). Those who bust out 12 K the first day and are never heard from again. Yeah, ambulance carted them off at the banana stand. Those who write 3-5K a day, the “respectable runners.” This year I am so far in better shape doing 2500 a day. A jogger at the least, although they could scrape me off a banana stand clutching a Gatorade here in the upcoming weeks so root for me. Don’t let me punk out. Even if I do the sad duck-walk writing that isn’t quite prose, but not yet incoherent ramblings of a madman.

But, like a race, it has been amazing to get to cheer others on, encourage them, and let them know that even if the writing is never published it still counts. We might not be the professional runners with sponsorships, but when we cross that finish line, we can dance with the lone guy sweeping up the cups and squeal I did it!

Even if we are dead last, we finished and that is the most important step of being a career writer; learning to finish what we start. I have never done NaNoWriMo, but I have worked as a writer for almost ten years, so these tips should be good for NaNoWriMo too. So far I am doing pretty well.

Tips for NaNoWriMo

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize
  2. Baby Steps. Break big goals in to bite size steps.
  3. Focus on success. Dwelling on failure is a waste of time and a formula to fail.
  4. Drink lots of water. Brains are like plants. Dehydrated brains are like MY plants. Dead. Fried. Being used by the cat to hide her toys. Want the cat hiding toys in your cerebellum? No. So drink water. Our body is a bioelectric system and water is what helps the current flow. No water no charge. So drink.
  5. Stretch. Blood will pool at your feet after a time. Get up and stretch. Not only do you need it so you won’t be a human pretzel of agony, you need to get oxygenated blood back in the ol’ noggin. Flushes out cat toys.
  6. Try a little yoga. Any pose that gets your head below the heart is great. Gets oxygen to the brain.
  7. Use a timer. Set for as little as 20 minutes and write. Sometimes we just need to prime the pump.
  8. Focus on the real goal of NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is not the time to try to win the Pulitzer. It is about word count. If your focus is to write pretty then that’s like bringing a bike to a swimming race. Wrong objective and doomed to fail.
  9. Tell your family, “Don’t go away mad, just go away.” Well, you can be nicer than that, but they might not believe you are serious. NaNoWriMo is good practice for banishing loved ones. Get used to it if you want to be a career author. “This is the line of death. Cross it, you die.”
  10. Push yourself just a little farther. If you write 300 words, great. But try writing 312. It is such a bizarre number that most of you will have to “even it out” to 350. Then write 354. You get the point :D.

So I am off to do my NaNoWriMo due diligence. I hope you follow me on Twitter or Facebook. I am reporting in regularly and my peeps have really kept me encouraged as I try to do the same for them. After I post this I am going to get a giant glass of water. Feels like Roo-bee (my cat) stuffed her cat toys in my noggin. Gotta follow my own advice and HYDRATE! Then play Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” over and over, :D.

I feel so Nike. There, I used it again.

In the meantime, what are some tips you guys would like to share? Have you failed at NaNoWriMo before? Why? What did you learn from it? Have you succeeded at NaNoWriMo? Any tips for the rest of us, people like me they’ve historically had to scrape out from under the Gatorade table? We want to hear from you!

Happy writing!

Until next time….

Ah, time for the shameless self-promo. We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is designed to be fun and effective. I am here to change your habits, not your personality. My method will help you grow your network in a way that will translate into sales. And the coolest part? My approach leaves time to write more books. Build a platform guaranteed to impress an agent. How do I know this? My book is recommended by agents.


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    • Ellie on November 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm
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    haha! Loved your post. It made me smile and want to finish my word count goal for the day (only 600 more words to my 2000 words/day goal, baby!)
    And your analogy of running to nanowrimo is so fitting. Two years ago I had two goals: run a half marathon, and write a novel. I trained all year long for the half marathon, ran it in October, then wrote my novel during NaNoWriMo. I discovered that running long distances was NOT my passion–but writing books is. I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year. The feeling of not being alone makes the anguish and euphoria of birthing a novel a little more bearable.
    Thanks for the great post and the encouragement!

  1. I’ve never NaNoWriMo’d before. I usually am getting Golden Heart entries out the door. This year I have a full request to zip out and a screenwriting course to complete (one by Alexandra Sokoloff). I’m also discovering my next story’s plot points and peeps. So I set the timer (good one), I reward myself a quarter in a tip jar on my desk for every writing goal I meet (including posting my blog), and I have a 100 words a day for the new story as a goal. This way I have it partitioned and feel a measure of control over the mess.

    Good luck with the NaNo– 🙂

  2. This is my first time doing NaNoWriMo. I signed up to try to help myself break free of my deeply entrenched habit of over-editing my first drafts as I write them. I’m sure I have editing OCD! I need to just WRITE. I’m still playing catch-up with my word count, but I WILL have a 50,000+ word . . um, “novel” by the end of this month. Nike! 😀

    1. Nike on, my sistah! Nike forth! Feel the Nike. (Nike can be all parts of speech, like “dude.”)

  3. LOL – Nike. Nice. 🙂

    Welcome to NaNo, Kristen (and Christine). This is my 7th year running – I’ve “lost” twice and won 4 times, and every single year it’s a different experience. One of the years I lost was the “sophomore slump” – I over-planned and killed the story before it even had a chance. I don’t remember what happened the other year, but I’m betting laziness had something to do with it (my biggest vice). 😉

    5 of those drafts are “trunk novels”, and shall never see the light of day again. Last year’s is in edits and comes out in January. This year’s is part of a series I’m writing that will be out next year. I’ve done this enough times to be confident trying for both quantity *and* quality, but for the beginner I highly suggest just having fun and trying some of the plot dares from the forums. Good, funny stuff, that. 🙂 One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from NaNo is to follow the characters…because odds are they can show you unique things about your story that you’d never think of if you were trying to stick to some predestined plot. Flexibility is the key to originality, IMO.

    Will I win this year? Who knows? I’m quite a ways behind off the starting blocks, (mostly because I’m also working on several other writing projects at the same time) so if you see someone running up fast on your heels, looking like she’s about to fall over dead, that’s probably me. Save me a spot at the end? 😉

  4. I’ve failed NaNo multiple times, and my excuse is basically the same every year:

    I used to work retail. Guess what happens in November in retail? Yeah, Christmas shopping prep and hell day.

    This year, I find that college likes dumping all the really big deadlines mid-November. It’s like the picked the literal worst time of the year for this on purpose or something.

    I’m at 2000 words of fiction right now, but I’ve written a three page research paper, two blogs, and have a 10 page paper due middle of the month sometime. So, still writing, even if it’s not fiction.

  5. Love this post! There are so many nay-sayers out there poo-pooing NaNoWriMo, but honestly you hit the nail on the head. Write, just write. Get those ideas out there and experience the joy of communicating like this!

    I know some have complained that agents/editors will be flooded with “bad” manuscripts, but I disagree. It’s an exercise to stretch your writing muscles a little and see what you can do. Polishing, editing and submitting–if you want–come much much later. So get out there and have fun with it!

  6. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year myself and after posting about it on my blog I had several people encourage me. One suggested outlining and then writing instead of just starting at the beginning and going. Outlining feels like editing to me and it is super time-intensive/not very produtive in terms of word count so I’m forgoing this myself. Especially since I’m working on a pseudo-memoir. I’m not trying to write it in order (plus I doubt in order will be the most interesting way to read it — hello memory scenes).

    Basically, I’m being very episodic about it. “Which episode from my/my character’s life will I write today.” And bam…I have another 2000 words.

    I’m actually a couple of days ahead at the moment. We’ll see how long that lasts. I haven’t been able to write every day only three out of five. That could be a problem. I hate having a full-time job.


  7. Awesome post, or should I say, you really Nikied this one. I like Nike as a verb. It works. It may need to survive the apocalypse. That presents an editorial question. Should I always capitalize “Nike” when using it as a verb?

    I love the running analogy. Actually, in the 10k run, I’m the belly dancer with the troupe beside the road, next to the banana stand. It’s a great spot for people watching. The first runners don’t notice us and don’t want to be distracted. They are Niking and in it to win it. The next group wants to beat their last year’s time but has no illusions about winning. They are happy if they “also ran.” Then come the ones who love having the excuse of belly dancers to stop and get a picture. Better than telling their friends they are dying and need to take a break. After the runners are the walkers. They wave, holler, flirt, stop and dance with us, and have something fishy in their water bottles. Often, they even wear costumes. They’re in it for the party. Me? I’m in it for the material. 🙂

    Nike on Nano! Good luck, Kristen. I’ll be rooting for you.

  8. Another great post, Kristin.

    First off: go, go, go on NaNoWriMo! I’m not participating this year (I’m editing a WIP and really want to finish that project before starting a new one) but I’m cheering several people on, including you!

    Second: great comments for any time a new project is in the works. Pressing on to the goal is definitely the important part.

  9. This is the first year I’ve considered myself a writer and the first year that I’ve entered the NaNoWriMo. I have written about 3,000 words but got called in to work today so will start plugging away again next week.

    I was feeling a bit down about my measly 3,000 words in the first week but your post has totally inspired me. I am just going to be one of those back of the pack runners like the guy in Run Fat Boy Run 🙂 🙂

    I’ve never written fiction, let alone a novel so it’s just a bit of an adventure and the Run Fat Boy Run analogy really applies now 🙂

  10. I did NaNo last year for the first time and got the 50k in 2 weeks. This year I’m skipping it since I am rewriting my manuscript (I think it’s against NaNo). Good luck! I’ll miss going to Starbucks and meeting with other writers who are also doing NaNo.

  11. This is my third time doing NaNoWriMo and I have to admit you pretty much nailed it in your description. My first year, I picked a book that would never be 50,000 words, and that was OK because it was meant for third and fourth grade and even though I couldn’t claim winner status. I felt like a winner. The second year I hit 52,000 and got myself a t-shirt, but the book wanted to be 88,000 and so the rest of the year I worked on it until I felt it was good ebough to publish. Now you can find Dixie Goode, and my book on amazon and that is great! and surreal. This year it feels like every word is about as much fun as pulling my own teeth with an ice skate, remember “Castaway?”

    Good luck and have fun!

  12. I am opening up my first write group/workshop, any Ideas? thanks

    1. Would depend on the goals of your workshop. I need a little more information to help you.

  13. Hey Kristen,

    Lots of helpful tips in your blog and just enough snark to shake ups loose from our excuses. I added your blog to my favorites bar; the highest compliment I can give.

    Rock On!


    1. Thanks Marlene! Very much appreciated and you made my month! 😀

  14. It was to help write the book, and for writers to meet so we could work in peer group. I was going to do a writers sprint of 15 minutes, two group discussions, and then break off in our peer groups.

    1. Is it to help others write a novel or edit existing work?

  15. This year, NaNoWriMo went really well for me. I was off dance classes because of injuries and for some reason school work slowed right down, so I managed to get 50k on Day 7. I kept up that momentum for three weeks, hitting 150k on Day 21, but then fell ill (probably from over doing it), and so in the next nine days only managed another 43k. Well, I say only. It was an achievement anyway.

    This wasn’t all one novel, of course. The first was 126k. The second was around 50k. The third and fourth both hit around 10k and died, but I still wrote them. I am determined that they should count because I still wrote them.

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