NaNoWriMo #2

Picture of a calendar for November 2023The more you do something, the more you learn, right? And what I learned this November is that I need to be on solid footing with my story before NaNoWriMo if I expect the month to work for me.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. I explained the idea and methods for it in last year’s post, found here, so I won’t repeat myself. But let me just say, NaNoWriMo 2022 was a success for me because I knew where I was going with the story before the start. This year? Oof, no.

See, I plot my stories. Other writers don’t. Whichever method works for you is great, but I’ve found I do better if I’ve thoroughly thought through my story, all the way through to the end. So I had planned to think deeply about my story ahead of time. I had planned to outline so I wasn’t wasting time writing drivel. Alas, time is a runaway freight train. It was suddenly November! I had to get my first day’s word count in! No time to lose!

Well, I kinda think I lost half the month, if you want me to be honest. My final word count was well below what I’d hoped–primarily because I was adrift, going back and forth and rethinking parts and blah blah blah.

So. Hear me, writers. I highly suggest you keep following your tried-and-true, nice-and-toasty, satisfying method ahead of NaNo. If you typically plot your stories, do it again before you start. NaNo is no time to charge across uncharted lands while also expecting to double or even triple your daily word count and yet expect magic. You know yourself, so believe in your trusty process. My two cents. I wish you luck.

NaNoWriMo mojo!

Logo for NaNoWriMo, showing an aqua blue with a shield showing writing utensils, topped with Viking horns, beside the words "National Novel Writing Month"

Well, wowee zowee and SHAZAM! I am AMAZED. Wanna know why? Because NaNoWriMo works, baby! It really, really works! I did it this year for the first time ever, and I am thrilled with the results.

In case you don’t know already, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically an impetus to get writers crackin’. The idea is to hunker down in November with a goal of putting 50-thousand words toward a new novel. The non-profit org that runs it has all sorts of tools and methods to help writers achieve that goal. But many writers come up with their own rules/methods to meet their liking.

For example, I didn’t start a new novel. I used the movement to work on an existing project that has been laaaaaanguishing. Oy, this project is a whole other story for another day. *hides face in shame* To be clear, I didn’t finish the novel nor reach the 50k word-count goal. An event mid-month killed my progress for, like, a week. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I GOT BACK INTO THE WRITING HABIT.


The habit of writing creates the urge to write. Now, nine days into December, I’m still writing, and I’m nearly done with the novel. Importantly, it’s a far better story thanks in part to thinking about and actively working on it so intensely for so long. I’m really happy with it so far. What more could I ask for from an artificial deadline?

I’ll tell you what else. Community.

My good friend and fellow author Valerie Biel mentioned to me ahead of November that she was doing NaNoWriMo with another friend, author Mary Behan, and I told her I was going to do it as well. We joined forces. In this pact, we had accountability, camaraderie, and a sounding board. Keep reading because you’ll want to know what we did that worked out so great.

Photo shows author Valerie Biel and her book titled Circle of Nine Beltany. Valerie is white, blonde, and has her hair pulled back into a low ponytail.

Valerie Biel

Photo shows author Mary Behan and her book titled A Measured Thread. Mary is white, has short white hair, and wears round, brown glasses.

Mary Behan

Valerie, who is an organizational goddess and also provides author services (check out her website), set up our communications: a shared calendar where we could enter our daily word count (accountability); weekly Zooms to discuss progress and whatever else (camaraderie); and a Facebook chat group to share spur-of-the-moment thoughts and gripes (a sounding board). This kept us in constant communication but never demandingly so. Perfection. Copy this method.

And one of the odd things we talked about? We all noticed during this month-long immersion into creativity that our nighttime dreams became more frequent and vivid, and we could better remember them in the morning. Isn’t that fascinating?

I’m so grateful to these ladies for providing encouragement then and still. And, hey, I’m thankful we decided to turn a totally-not-real deadline into a real one for ourselves. It really worked to get us out of our malaise. I hope you’ll try it someday if you too need the kick to get crackin’.