National Novel ‘Starting’ Month

There are lots of blogs, articles, and opinions out there about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I wasn’t going to add to them.

But I felt an unexpected compulsion to share a thought this morning.

It’s just this:

People will tell you what NaNoWriMo is for. They will tell you what it is not for. They will tell you how great it is or they will tell you what a waste of time it is. They will share their experiences of doing, or reasons for not doing, NaNoWriMo.
Some people pick up random snippets of information about NaNoWriMo and think they know that it is all about wannabe writers completing a hurriedly written novel in a month and then sending it straight to a publisher to be – most likely – rejected. Well that may be what a small percentage is doing. But I don’t know anyone who has done that.

What no one can tell you is what you will get from NaNoWriMo. The NaNoWriMo book: No Plot? No Problem! written by NaNoWriMo creator, Chris Baty, couldn’t even tell me what I would get from participating in NaNoWriMo!


Well because NaNoWriMo like many other ways and implements of writing is a tool. It is something to be picked up, used and taken advantage of in a way that suits the user.

I used NaNoWriMo last year to START a novel. To put aside a month and ask for help from my family to concentrate on getting words on a page, with less outside commitments than usual – just for a month (I couldn’t do this in the summer). I could give them definitive dates that I would stick to. Otherwise every idea I get gets ditched when something else demands of my time. I can manage a short story once or twice a week but can I sit and write out the bones of a novel day-by-day-by-day? No.
I used the recommended daily word count as a way to encourage me to push my story on and out, and worry about editing later (over the next months or years). I used NaNoWriMo as writing permission, a reason, a driving force – a retreat almost. I even had a place I went to (with a t-shirt and a mug!) that was a NaNo-only zone. I had no story plan, no plot, no characters, but by the end of the month I did – I had 50,000 words and a story about a bunch of people doing and saying some interesting things that I think other people might find interesting one day.
One day. After lots of fiddling. No hurry.

I hope to pick up and use NaNoWriMo again for a month on Tuesday – in my own little way.

National Novel Writing Month: It’s just another tool of the job. You may very well use it differently from me. But don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

18 thoughts on “National Novel ‘Starting’ Month

  1. Beautifully put. I did it for the first time last year, and I my experience was exactly as you describe. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but yes, it is a bit like a retreat, isn’t it? Good luck this year!


  2. I’ve not done it before but definitely saw it as a jump start for a longer work. (Not, as someone described it on my blog, a rushed word vomit.)


  3. Good stuff Not being mean but there should also be a FB group for people to braodcast their statss to people who might be interested. Nano kills twitter for a month, when every third post is from a participent telling the rest of us what we don’t really want to know. Tell us at the end and we’ll give you a big hug and say well done. 🙂


    • I feel the same about Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor, formula 1, rugby, football, Wimbledon, etc, etc, on Twitter, Trevor, and I didn’t want to read the royal wedding tweets. I follow so many people that they get watered down though, and I do manage to ignore them fairly comfortably. There is something called Proxlet that hides hashtags that you don’t want to follow apparently. (although I’ve never used it) So, so long as everyone is tweeting their wordcount with the #NaNoWriMo hashtag you could hide them – at least most of them.
      I personally need to announce my daily wordcount after I’ve put so much effort into trying to achieve it. It really is a daily struggle for some of us. And a bad day with a low wordcount generates much needed sympathy and support.
      As I say – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!


  4. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

    I think everyone has their reasons for doing it. I’m doing it simply to challenge myself and get some words out.

    I look forward to cheering you on! X


  5. Rach, I’ll just hide for a month until all my writery friends have completed their penance. I don’t normally feel any sort of empathy with agents and publishers but come December/ January, they will have my deepest sympathy. I know not everyone who completes nano will submit their novel to an agent or publisher, but a good proportion will and my next submission might end up under a mountain of Nanoguano and by the time they get to it they may have turned into gibbering idiots with no hair and be either under sedation or serving out a term at the funny farm. 🙂

    I still say good luck to anyone doing it though. You have my utmost respect and admiration. But, like following someone doing a naked bike ride from Land’s End to john ‘O ‘Groats I don’t particularly need the intimate, minute details of the trip on the hour, every hour. 🙂


    • No, it is not a good proportion, Trevor. Most will not even finish. And of those who do, MOST of us will not be sending our work to a publisher in Dec and Jan – as I wrote in the blog post.
      The vast majority are taking part purely for the motivation and the chance to just get down to some writing in their otherwise busy lives.


  6. Excellent post! I’ve also been thinking about how the exercise of writing a novel is useful because it helps train the brain. The first time I wrote a novel it left me mentally exhausted, but not so the second (or third or fourth lol). It’s like anything else — gets easier w/ practice — and Nano forces you to practice.


  7. I would never assume that completing NaNoWriMo would leave me with a finished novel, ready to send to an agent or publisher. Like you, Rachel, I intend to use it as a tool to kickstart me into the first 50,000 words and give me an excuse not to be interrupted and to be allowed to write in peace. It’s an incentive to me to put those words on paper. At the end of November I hope to have maybe half of a first draft and the work is just beginning. The real challenge will be to write the other half, then spend months going over it, chopping, adding, rewriting, correcting, sobbing and putting it into a drawer never wanting to see it again until the urge to tear it up passes and I start the chopping, adding etc process all over again. It may well never be seen by a publisher or an agent. The point is, I want to write it and I want to finish it. NaNo is my starting point. I am terrified, frankly, but I dare say so are most of the participants. Good luck to us all.


  8. So right, it’s a tool. I, for one, need some kind of external motivator every now and then…. sometimes you just lose your writing mojo and NaNo (or NaBlo) helps you get it back…. that’s what I’m using it for anyhows, but each of us is using it in a different way 😉 Good luck with it. F


  9. Rachel – I think I would see Nano in the same way for me if I were doing it – I kind of did the same when I wrote the first draft of my novel. Just sat down and promised myself I would write 1-2k every day. And it worked – it was wonderful and exhilarating. And I posted my wordcount, and I hope anyone who was pissed off just unfollowed me – that’s the beauty of Twitter 😉


  10. I did NaNo for the first time last year and definitely used it as a tool to get the first part of a novel written. At the end of November 2010, I had the bare bones of the first half of a novel that had gone off in all kinds of interesting directions – okay, and it had found a few dull cul de sacs, too! I’ve spent the best part of 2011 writing the rest and then editing it all and now I’ve now got a novel that I’m reasonably happy with.

    And it all starts over again tomorrow… 🙂


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