NaNoWriMo – can I write a novel during National Novel Writing Month?

This is the first sentence of my new 50,000 word novel. Yes, I’ve signed on for the exercise in masochism known as National Novel Writing Month. That big a word count averages out to 1,666 words a day, according to the site’s organizers, or about six and a half pages. That’s not an impossible goal on a good day, but I’ve never cranked out a novel that fast. Now that the race is on, my anxiety is already kicking in – I’m hyperventilating and my heart rate is rising.

NaNoWriMo ( was launched in 1999, and it’s grown steadily since then. Last year 200,000 people participated, and of that number, 30,000 completed 50,000 words or more. Those who reach the finish line get some kind of sticker and certificate. There’s no fee to enter, and no one sees or reads the finished manuscript. When you reach 50,000 words, you upload your novel to their web site to verify the word count. If you’re paranoid, you can do a “save-as” and scramble the book a bit to insure that no one can steal your plot.

So why did I make the first line of this blog the novel’s first sentence? Because I plan to make my 50,000-word manuscript a form of performance art in order to beef up my word count and blend fact with fiction. I’ll alternate fictional scenes with stream-of-consciousness ramblings about my creative process, some of which will end up on this blog. Who knows, the process may open up new horizons for me as a writer.

I entered NaNoWriMo several years ago but dropped out after a week because the break-neck speed made me excruciatingly nervous. As a writer, I’m accustomed to taking my time, backtracking and editing as I go along. I agonize over the perfect words and phrases and make changes directly on the computer, so that before I print out the new pages, I’ve got a fairly coherent and engaging first draft, or so I hope.

With NaNoWriMo, there’s no time for that kind of lollygagging. As in a marathon, I need to sustain my pace. No time to fix typos or check for repetition, let alone worry about the finer points of spinning a compelling tale – there’s only time to spew, no time to analyze the vomitus.

Word’s spell-check just underlined vomitus with a red squiggle, telling me it’s not a legitimate word. Normally I’d take time to consult an online dictionary for fine-tuning, but not now – I have to meet my quota. But then what does this Microsoft program know? It doesn’t even recognize the word “blog.”  

No need to agonize in solitude – NaNo has lots of online forums where people can share the misery. You can find out who’s participating in your own geographical region and even meet them in person. In three hours I’ll be dining on free pizza, hobnobbing at East Line Books, an independent bookstore in Clifton Park, where the owner, Robyn Ringler, is throwing a NaNo kick-off party. Apparently some NaNo participants converge on local libraries and coffee shops to write together en masse, but I think I’ll pass on that – I’ve never done my best writing in a group setting.

You too can share in this November madness. There’s still time to sign up. I don’t see any entry deadline on the website, but of course every day you lose means more catching up in the remaining days. As the say on their home page, with a nod to Maurice Sendak, “let the wild rumpus begin!”

Anyone care to bet on whether and when I finish my 50,000 words? Give me your best guess, down to the date, hour and minute, and I’ll send the winner copies of my two mystery novels, MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS and ELDERCIDE.

There, I’ve just written 647 words – over a third of today’s quota!

8 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – can I write a novel during National Novel Writing Month?

  1. Go for it all you novel writing friends of Julies’s! The prize she is offereing, a copy of each of her first two novels, is worth winning. In fact her first two novels are worth BUYING if you haven’t yet bought them. They are also worth READING after you’ve bought them! I kid you not.

    Oh, I misread her offer. All I have to do to enter and possibly win a copy of each of her novels is to make a guess when she finishes her 50,000 words (hopefully in the form of a new novel.) Ok I guess Julie will finish on Novemer 29, 2011 at 11:29 pm., slightly ahead of the deadline.

    • Hi, Betsy. Thanks for being the first to enter the contest and for the nice recommendation. I realize that if I’m running a contest, I shouldn’t reveal my ongoing word count here! But you’re free to revise your guess as we get further along.

    • Hi Patricia,
      I’m delighted you’re doing this! I’ve exceeded my daily goal too, but as I said above, I can’t reveal too much if I’m having a contest.

      Have you done this before? And did you come up with a publishable book?I’m curious, since you’re a published, professional author. I went to a kick-off gathering tonight, but the people there were earlier in the process.

      • This is my first time for NaNoWriMo, Julie. I’m hoping to establish a new almost daily writing habit, something I’ve never been able to do before. So far, (I say on day three), it’s going well.

  2. Julie, interesting approach to your novel. I look forward to hearing how that works out for you. Sure, you’ll make it this year. I didn’t make it past 32K on my first attempt because it felt impossible, but this is my 8th year and I only flubbed the first so far. (knock on wood) Each time gets easier. And each first draft gets better. Good luck!

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