Nanowrimo is like the fun run of writing. The goal is to write 50,000 words, a novel draft if possible, between November 1 and November 30. What you “win” is the ability to say, “Yay, I won!” and you get a sticker to put on your Facebook page. This year, I decided to give it a try.


There were several reasons for this. One was because I had just finished a first draft (more honestly, three quarters of a novel draft) that was in my first reader’s hands. The other, and more important, reason was that since I am no longer working, my goal was to be a full-time writer. I had been writing about three hours a day, but I was dissatisfied, and was looking for a way to motivate myself to do better. Nanowrimo seemed worth a try. At the same time, I also signed up for a writing workshop about which I’ll post more later. So I had my writing ducks in a row. Take the workshop, succeed at my Nanowrimo goals.

The nanowrimo experience is interesting. There’s a lot of cheering you on, meetings set up to write with other participants, the ability to have writing buddies, and similar ways to motivate yourself to keep writing. None of which I need. I’m a self-motivated individual as it is, so I found the cheering and constant stream of encouraging emails more of an annoyance than an encouragement. But this is me. Nanowrimo exists because it helps people, and if it didn’t help me in that way, that doesn’t matter. It does a lot of good for other people.

What it did accomplish for me was giving me the goal of getting a first draft done in a month. My intent was a first draft of 90,000 words, but any complete first draft would do. And in that it worked perfectly. I modified my activity so that I wrote every day, seven days a week. In the mornings, I walked two miles to a coffee shop chosen specifically because it was two miles away. So writing plus exercise, a win/win! I now call that coffee shop my office, which I rent for the price of a latte a day.

The habit I set myself was to spend ten or fifteen minutes writing longhand setting the goals for the next scene. Longhand matters, because it changes how I think, and lets me be more free-flowing. After that was done, I wrote. Generally between four and five hours, until I completed that scene. Then I would walk home, have lunch, and then spend the next three hours writing until I had another scene done, or close to done.

The results: I achieved my goal of turning into a full time writer. I continue to spend mornings (except for Wednesday, which is my errand day) working at the coffee shop, then coming home to write after lunch. During Nanowrimo, I wrote between 3,500 – 4,500 words a day. One day I wrote over 5,000 words. That was exhausting. I had to go take a lie down, and I’m not even joking.

So I achieved both my goals. A first draft in a month (a 60,000 word first novel draft was completed November 23), and developing the habit of truly writing full time. While I think it unlikely I will participate again, for both of these things I am truly grateful. And to all my fellow particpants, you rock. No matter whether you hit 50,000 words or not, whatever you wrote is more than had before.