A Slow NaNoWriMo

For the past two years, I have been joining in the fun of National Novel Writing Month, a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.” (Accompanying comic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl).

Both times I took the challenge, I completed just over 50,000 words under the wire. This year, I won’t make it. But I’m not overly upset and here’s why.

I’m trying a different process. Whereas in past years, I used NaNoWriMo as the opportunity to brainstorm new story ideas, this time I’m working from a very detailed outline. As a result, the writing is going more slowly but the resulting scenes are much more mature. So even though my progress meter looks pathetic, I’m not giving up, just revising my end goal to 25K. Once it’s all over I’ll look back at what I’ve achieved and decide whether this new process worked out or not.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to plug away. My only real problem is that the kids have inventoried the Halloween chocolate, so they will know if I sneak some!

Is anyone else here doing NaNoWriMo? How is it going? Have you ever participated in similar group challenges (writing or otherwise) and how did they go?


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Cara King
14 years ago

I’ve never done Nano myself — I think it would be a very bad idea for me, leading only to guilty feelings — but I know many folks who’ve had great luck with it.

I do Book-in-a-Week challenges occasionally — and those I’ve found work for me only if I’m doing it alone, oddly enough! The group challenges always involve email, and extra email is the last thing I need when I’m trying to write a lot!


Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I’m doing NaNoWriMo, though technically I’m doing it wrong, since I’m adding 50,000 words to an existing ms rather than working on a new project.

Anyway, I’m writing from an outline (I wouldn’t call it detailed–it’s just a list of scenes) for the first time in my life, and I’m finding it surprisingly freeing. When I get to the end of a scene, I don’t have to think “What’s next?” I just pull out the next index card from my stack and keep plowing forward. Much to my own amazement, I’m up to 28,244 words and am on pace to make it to 50K if I can just average 2000/day from here on out.

None of which is to say I’ve completely abandoned my old pantser ways. Just this morning I spend most of my shower time figuring out how to plug a plot hole, which led to me deciding to add a new POV character and an unplanned subplot. I’m not sure where it’s going of if it’ll make it into the final draft, but it seems like a fun scene (for all values of “fun” where a previously mild-mannered man turns into a vigilante), so I’m going to run with it.

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

I’ve not done Nano, since like Cara, I think I’d just feel like I was a failure.

A writing friend and I occasionally do goals and keep tabs on each other, but not lately. I like it if I can write every day, regardless of word count, so that’s what I’m going for now.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Woohoo on the great progress, Susan! And the idea of a mild-manner vigilante makes me smile.

Besides NaNo, some local writer buddies and I do the occasional week-long challenge, totally free-form. Each of us decides on her own goal, whether it be hours worked or wordcount or whatever, then we check in with each other at the beginning and end of our writing days. Since it’s just 4-5 of us it’s not a lot of email but it helps keep us all motivated.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I’ve never done Nano–I would be one of those, like Cara and Megan, who would just see it as another chance to feel bad about myself. 🙂 (Kind of like when I eat ten cookies in a sitting and then don’t go to yoga class that day, ane beat myself up about it…).

But I do like to set short-term goals to help me move a story along. (Like with this WIP, I want to finish my rough draft by the end of next weekend, since I have several holiday days off!)

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

And the idea of a mild-manner vigilante makes me smile.

Me too, though I have no idea where he’s going to fit into the rest of my plot!

14 years ago

Not a writer, so I’ll leave that for those who know.

But as for the chocolate, you could always blame the dog, no?

(If all else fails, it was a ghost)

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I’m doing it for the first time this year and feel I’m not doing anything really different from normal life–normal life with writing, tho, as opposed to just thinking about it instead of doing it!
I’ve done BIAW (book in a week) with my local chapter, which I rather like. Trouble with NaNoWriMo is you can spend an awful lot of time socializing online–or even in person, should you desire to go to a write-in–have you gone to one of those, Elena?

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’ve never tried Nanowrimo but I have tried BIAW a couple of times. Unfortunately, during the writing challenge, suddenly it seemed very important to organize my underwear drawer, clean out my closet, and pick up all the stuff off of my book room floor.
There’s something wrong with me.

The Unleash Your Story challenge was helpful…or maybe it was because I had a deadline that coincided.

I do think writing challenges are terrific and if they get people in the habit of writing, then I say hooray. I just can’t do them.

I heard of a different kind of writing challenge this year — 100 words for 100 days. Karen Potter blogged about it at Wet Noodle Posse this month.
See it HERE

14 years ago

I adore Nanowrimo! My first time out, I won (= reached 50K), the next year I was in my first trimester and kept falling asleep in front of the monitor, the year after that I had a colicky baby. This year, I’m holding steady at 1k a day and happy with it.

The boards are wonderful. Though there is a very fine line between ‘getting energized’ and ‘being sucked in the black hole’.

Tessa McDermid
14 years ago

Several writer friends are involved with Nano and have participated every year. I’m like several others – I don’t work well with the check-in deal and I sure don’t need more email!

Love the scene card idea, Susan! I’ve been stuck on my latest WIP and keep going over the same scenes. I do have a detailed outline – I’m going to make cards for each scene and go from there. Used to work for my housework chores – back when I used to clean 🙂


14 years ago

I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the second year – won last year and already passed 50K this year. I’m going for 75K in hopes of writing something long enough to edit into a publishable format. I’m writing a historical romance, though not a regency.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hey, Lisa, we like historicals of all types. Amanda writes in a bunch of time periods.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

This is my first year of NaNo. And I’m average 1000 words a day so far. So even if the trip hadn’t moved up into November, I still wouldn’t have made the 50k goal. But I would’ve been satisfied with 30k. Now it’s going to be significantly less. Oh well. I’ll keep going on. There’s a girl I know who’s at 85k+. She’s been writing like the wind.

14 years ago

Diane wrote:

Unfortunately, during the writing challenge, suddenly it seemed very important to organize my underwear drawer, clean out my closet, and pick up all the stuff off of my book room floor.

This must be the same phenomenon that explains why I–who ordinarily read obsessively–would always find something better to do when I book was assigned for a class.


Elena Greene
14 years ago

Azteclady, best I can do is blame the goldfish… 🙂

Wow, lots of us doing NaNo (and all better than me…sigh).

Janet, I’ve been to a few local get togethers, just 3-5 people at the cafe in B&N, that sort of thing. It’s fun and helps me stay motivated.

As for the NaNo message boards, I used to visit more but cut back this year. I’ve taken on some volunteer activities that have gotten bigger than I planned. But you can meet some interesting people on those boards. Last year I was able to send extra copies of the Dutch edition of LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE to some nice writers in Belgium and the Netherlands.

I find it kinda cute to see how eager and naive new writers are–people posting questions like “What should the conflict in my story be?” or “I’m writing a Regency but don’t know much about the period. Where do I start?”

Congrats again to everyone on their progress!

Linda Banche
14 years ago

I’m doing NaNoWriMo, too, this year, although I’m not much for support groups. I can sit down and make myself write. All I use the website for is to update my word count.

I decided to use NaNo to write the first draft of a story I’ve been thinking about for a while. I did an outline of sorts in October, and I plan for the book to be > 50,000. I decided to write until I get to 50,000 and then finish up in December.

And first draft it is. Talk about bulk words. I’ve already written at least two scenes twice, and changed some things, but everything I’ve written is still in there.

So far, with NaNo’s just-put-up word counter, I’m at 43,967. I will probably make myself go over the 50,000 to make up for the doubles.

14 years ago

Oh geez, I could never do it if I were a writer — it would be too much pressure for me! LOL 🙂 If I could do it unofficially, sort of using a word count as a nice little idea instead of a goal, then I could. But that’s about it. 🙂


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