November is…

…National Novel Writing Month! Affectionately shortened to NaNoWriMo, or even just NaNo, it is a month of pure writing with no editing. The goal is to write a minimum 50,000 word novel. Considering that the standard average is 250 words/page, that’s a 200 page book; not very long really, but it’s a start. Of course, most of the participants don’t stop at 50,000 words; that’s just a goal, and that works out to 1,667 words every day.

NaNo is a program of the Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit dedicated to helping people write, including programs in schools to get kids to write. If you want more information about their programs, check out their website here:

I participated last year for the first time and made my goal with a couple of days to spare. The hardest part for me was the not-editing part. Whenever I write, I have to fix typos and grammatical errors as soon as I see them, so stopping myself from doing that was really, really, hard. But then I discovered that in the past, I had used the editing as a stalling tactic, because it definitely interrupts the flow of the story. I went into NaNo thinking I couldn’t do it as I had only ever written short stories (and some very bad adolescent poetry!) So I surprised myself with how I was able to sit down and just write.

I know there are some writers who start with a plan and an outline, then flesh it out with characters, and timelines, and all sorts of details about what happens to whom and when. I’m a percolating pantser when I write; I have an idea percolating in the back of my brain for a while, but when I actually sit down to write, it’s a seat-of-the-pants kind of thing. (There was quite a discussion on the NaNo Forums about different methods of writing – very interesting!) I have tried the planning and the outlines, but it’s basically a waste of time, because as soon as I start writing, the characters take over and go, do, and say, whatever they want, not what I want.

So I will do it again this year. This time I have a plan of sorts; I at least know what I will write about. Last year, I sat staring at a blank screen until about Day 4. So beginning November 1st, I’ll be frantically writing every day when I get home from work, and all day on weekends and Holidays. And hopefully, I’ll have another story ready to edit by the time December 1st rolls around.


18 thoughts on “November is…

  1. I’m trying to gear up for it as well. The problem is figuring out a good schedule with family, workouts, actual work and all the other things called life. When you said approximately 250 words per page, that seems more manageable, as I hadn’t considered that before.

  2. I’ve heard a lot of writers prescribe the ideal approach to writing, but always it turns out that they’re really talking about what works best for them. It sounds as though you’ve learned to recognize and accept your own natural patterns, and I think that’s half the battle. Good luck with the novel.

  3. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think every writer has to figure it out for him/herself. There are lots of ‘how-to-write-a-novel’ instructions out there, and I’ve read a lot of them; they just don’t work for me. I pretty much figured that out when I wrote my graduate thesis. I dutifully wrote an outline, planned what I wanted to write, but then just couldn’t do it that way. I researched and wrote the whole thing over Spring Break. So I am definitely a pantser!

  4. I love your coined phrase, percolating pantser…How cool is that? It describes half the writers in the world. I never plan my writing. It just happens. I never try to force it either. I just start writing. Nano is scary to me because it has a timeline. That’s another one of those things I don’t do well. Boy, I would love to give it a try through. Hmmm…I guess I’m a mulling pantser…

  5. What do you have to lose, JJ? You don’t have to make the goal – many don’t. It’s a great experience – at least I thought so. I never thought I could write that many words as I’m primarily a short story writer, but now I’m hooked; my short stories aren’t so short any more! 🙂

  6. I participated last year, wrote and published METAL MAN WALKING. Wrote a companion piece for it called ANNIE DREAMING. I am in the midst of writing IN THE SEVENTH DAY. I reached a milestone today – 30,000 + words. So far, I’m very pleased with this novel. Much work ahead.

  7. I can’t outline a novel. I create a main character who drives the novel forward. I just provide context and other characters. He (or she) does the rest. Carley

Ruth passed away from cancer. Please remove from list

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