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10 Things They Never Told You About NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (2015 participant logo)November, the month of charity moustaches and writing productivity, is upon us and no doubt, many of you are partaking in the annual NaNoWriMo event to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s a fun challenge where you can meet a lot of awesome people, but if you’ve never done it before it can feel a bit daunting. So here’s a list of 10 things no-one’s ever told you about taking part in NaNoWriMo.

1. You Should Have Planned

Now, they tell you! You’ve spent the whole of October so immersed in getting mentally prepared for the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, the thought has never crossed your mind that you could have planned your novel out. That way you could have known what you were going to write on what day and make the whole process a lot smoother. But no, you thought to kick off on November 1st with little more than a character and vague idea of plot. Oh well, at least there’s point 2…

2. It’s Okay To Change Your Mind Mid-Way Through

Make No Mistake by maryseYour novel may start out a literary piece about a bank manager called Nigel going through a mid-life crisis, but by the end you could find out that you are writing about a half-amazonian, shotgun-wielding nun called Sister Mary Joseph fighting off an invasion of frickin’ space unicorns of death. That’s fine, so long as you remind yourself that you don’t need to go back to the beginning and start all over again. It’s called a first draft because there are invariably others.

3. Lots of Adverbs And Adjectives Help No-One

Some clever spark will have told you that the way to bump up your word count is to insert as many useless, repetitive, boring, tedious, dreary, tiresome adjectives and adverbs as cunningly, cleverly, skilfully, deftly, neatly, humanly possible. But let’s face it, that sucks! You’re here to write a novel, not a thesaurus and that time you spend looking up synonyms could be better spent writing the next paragraph.

4. Catching Up Is Harder Than You Think

clock by 27gramsIt happens. You’re going along, writing your 1,667 words each day and then something happens. Maybe your cat explodes or your aunt spontaneously combusts but something, invariably, will come along that will cause you to miss a day. Not a problem, you think, I’ll just catch up tomorrow. Except it turns out to be a lot harder than you think and before you know it you’re not 1,667 words behind but 5,000 or more. And worst of all, your fellow NaNoWriMos won’t wait for you to catch up. No, it’s survival of the fittest and you’ll be left to the word sharks.

5. In Week One You’ll Think It Easy

Week one is exciting. You’re motivated by the challenge and have a good idea of the first few chapters even if you haven’t properly planned them all out. Sure, they’ll be a few hiccups, but you’ll find yourself ahead of schedule and feeling good. Before you even hit 10,000 words you’ll find yourself thinking that you’ve got this year’s NaNo in the bag.

6. In Week Two You’ll Suddenly Fall Behind

Killing Time by Joel RobisonAfter a brilliant first week, the novelty will wear off and suddenly you’ll find the act of getting to 1,667 words each day so much harder. You’re less sure of the direction of the story and you’re not even sure if yesterday’s words even made sense. Still, you’ll struggle on, but your first week of confidence is suddenly replaced with a feeling that perhaps this was more difficult that you thought.

7. In Week Three You’ll Hate Your Novel

If there is the writing equivalent to Hell, then it looks very similar to week three of NaNoWriMo. All your plans have gone out the window, a major character you were planning on using in the final scene is now dead. You’re not just questioning your book’s plot, but your own sanity. You hate your novel, you hate your characters, and you hate this stupid idea of writing a novel in a month. You even constantly remind yourself that you are probably a terrible writer, and believe that the proof is right there in week three.

8. In Week Four Your Perception Of Reality Will Warp

Somehow you got through week three and the end of your novel is in sight. By some miracle the mess of plot seems to be coming together and you know what? You might have an actual half-decent novel now. You’re so involved in your book that it now seems more real than the world around you. You’re barely functioning as an adult and you can’t remember when you last showered.

9. You Can Break The Rules

The Rebel by bostankorkuluguThere is no NaNoWriMo police. If you decide to write 30,000 words on one project and 20,000 on another, no-one is coming in the middle of the night to drag you to writing gulag. If you want to put ninja fairies in your cowboy western, no-one will step out of the shadows and shake a finger at you. If you just do 50,000 extra words on your in-progress novel, it won’t cause a social media scandal which will see you on the headlines of every newspaper in the land.

10. The Sense Of Accomplishment Is Amazing

Some people will question the usefulness of NaNoWriMo. After all, 50,000 words isn’t really a proper novel. But when you get to the 1st December with 50,000 words under your belt you’ll understand. You’ll realise that big unwieldy thing that’s scared you for years is doable and all it takes is a bit of good writing discipline to get you there. Even if you have no intention of ever publishing the edited manuscript, the fact that you took on a challenge and completed it is reward in itself. NaNoWriMo is certainly a challenge but whether you manage 50,000 words or not, the fact that you gave it a go should be commended.

Title image by TheHappyCactus.



  1. Avatar Jane says:

    Love the humor! Laugh or die! LOL!

  2. Does this article count towards your word count, tthen, Adrian? 😉

  3. Avatar John Pope says:

    I had never heard of NaNoWriMo before yesterday. I read this article and immediately called my friend to see if he would be down to join me in the challenge. Well, it turns out that starting late on November first is a bad plan and so we decided to extend it to two months. Still a challenge I think, and hopefully next year we are prepared to tackle the actual challenge, but this year is 2 months, 50k words for the two of us. Thanks for the tips Adrian.

  4. Love this! Thanks for an enjoyable post! #3 had me cracking up!!
    Okay if I share via my blog?

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