What NaNoWriMo has Taught Me

2015 is my second year to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Last year I won, and by win, I mean I managed to write 50,000 words in the month of November. For the mathematically inclined, that’s 1667 words each day.

1667 words is a lot of words. And truly? Most of them are pretty bad, but that is okay. The purpose of NaNoWriMo isn’t to produce a polished, publishable novel in 30 days. The real purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get a good solid start on a–pardon me–shitty first draft that will one day become a polished first novel.

My 2014 NaNo novel was, in my view, not worth the effort in trying to polish. Perhaps some day I will change my mind and go back to it, but that won’t be any time soon. Truly, I spent most of 2015 writing short stories and pretending the long form didn’t exist.

Despite my frustration at my story, I still learned something valuable, and I think it is the primary lesson of NaNoWriMo.


NaNoWriMo forces you to sit down every day and write. Just write. For me, 1667 words takes about two hours. That is two hours of writing that I have to find time to do each day.  They (you know, them, those people who say things) say that it takes around 21 days to form a habit, and, for me, NaNoWriMo created a writing habit that didn’t exist before.

Because of my busy schedule, the only available time I had to write was before my family woke up. So, beginning in mid October, I woke up at 5 am and drafted and planned, and in November, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Somehow, I never stopped. Every day, I wake at 5 in the morning, tiptoe downstairs, and sit down at my keyboard or my open notebook.

In writing, I think discipline is half the battle. I find that if I skip my morning writing, I feel cranky and tired and depressed for the rest of the day. Writing is a part of my life now, and without the pressure of NaNoWriMo, I am not sure it would be.

When I look back in 2016, I wonder what the lesson from this year’s NaNoWriMo will be.

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