3 terrible truths about NaNoWriMo (that prove you should absolutely do it)

nanowrimoWe’re a little over a week into National Novel Writing Month, and it seems an excellent time to let a few terrible secrets out of the box. For those curious outsiders, NaNoWriMo is a thirty-day writing challenge to produce a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30th. But when you’re writing, as those who are already knee-deep in their word counts can attest, NaNoWriMo feels more akin to a delicate balancing act undertaken while riding a rollercoaster during an earthquake. Which brings us to the secrets about this wonderfully ludicrous tradition:

1. November is maybe the worst month for this.

Hey! You know that month when you spend weeks preparing to make, to help make, or to coordinate and eat a huge family dinner with several relatives you don’t see any other time of year (and with good reason)? That month when, if you’re in school, your life is reduced to weeks of studying, class reading, and paper-writing, punctuated by moments of sheer panic that you have no idea what you’re doing? That month when the midwinter holidays leer at you from the other side of a calendar-flip as if they know just how unready you are? What do they call that month?

That’s right: NaNoWriMo!

November is packed with end-of-year obligations, distractions, and, frankly, totally legitimate excuses for giving up on trying to writing a whole novel in thirty days. And that, oddly enough, is something like the point. Any month in any year in any stage of your life will be full of distractions and excuses, and waiting for the perfect downtime to start writing will only make you extremely good at waiting. Writing when it is inconvenient, disruptive, and downright impossible is something all writers must do, and November is as good a time as any to learn how.

2. Be prepared to hate everything.

And I mean everything.


  • The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that informed you of NaNoWriMo’s existence.
  • The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that keep distracting you as you try to hit your daily word count.
  • The word count! (a.k.a. "your new measure of self-worth")
  • The English language, which utterly abandons you by Day 10.
  • Your computer and its terrifying game of “Do you want to save those changes you don’t remember making?”
  • The need to eat or to sleep.
  • And of course, almost every word of your NaNo novel. (Except for those one or two perfect sentences — you know the ones I mean.)

Just bear in mind that NaNoWriMo is thirty days of the creative writing process hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity while on fire — feelings (negative and positive) are inevitable. Happily, with NaNoWriMo, you have a supportive, national community of other writers going through the same process. The other good news? A little (or a lot) of emotional turmoil is a sign that you’re invested in your narrative. And investment is the difference between writing it and giving it up.

3. You may not hit 50K words.

But…then what was the point?

You can take it from me, a reasonably together human being who has battled this beast on four different occasions and never won — sometimes you don’t make it to 50,000 words. And that is a beautiful thing.

NaNoWriMo is like sprinting through a marathon — a marathon where your goal is not just to reach a finish line, but to shape something interesting with your footprints as you run. It is a thirty-day challenge to put words and narrative events in some semblance of order, to turn off (or to at least dial down) the internal editor that wants you to keep looking backwards, and perhaps most importantly, to shove past the paralyzing fear of the blank page in front of you. The finish line — that 50,000 word count — is a lovely thing, but you’ll find that reaching it or not reaching it has very little effect on the story that you’ll have actually created.

Remember, remember that in the month of November, NaNoWriMo is exhausting, thrilling, terrifying, entertaining, ridiculous, and amazing. If you’re thinking about participating, try taking a test run during Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July before officially participating in November. And if you’re already participating this year, remember that you’re writing because you want to, which is one of the coolest things you can do with any thirty days.

Now, stop procrastinating, and good luck!

For more NaNoWriMo, check out our silly series of #DinoWriMo puns.


Anastasia M. Collins

Anastasia M. Collins is a children’s literature scholar and academic librarian. She holds an MS in library science and an MA in children’s literature from Simmons University and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Jim Randolph

I did it a few years ago after reading the companion book No Plot? No Problem! which I found very motivating. But November? I'm an educator. I did it in June instead which was great. And since I wrote a kidds book I gave myself a 30-35K word limit which was just about right after edits. MUCH more fun in the summer.

Posted : Nov 11, 2015 07:27


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more