On Your Mark, Get Set… NaNoWriMo!

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Last year, as the nation was hurtling toward the end of a tumultuous election, ramping up for the third wave of Covid, and as my son’s class was quarantined for two weeks, I decided to take on NaNoWriMo. Was I insane? Yes. Did it go well? No. Here’s what I have to say about the audacious attempt to write a novel in 30 days.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Last year, I needed something to think about other than nerve-wracking national disasters/incidents, so I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I did the whole thing. I went to the website. I signed an online contract promising to write a novel in 30 days. I didn’t mean it. I wanted to rework a novel in 30 days, which is totally fine too. You can create your own goal. It’s a slick website, and they send a lot of reminder emails. They give electronic tokens of success when you meet your mark. It’s got all the pop psychology bells and whistles to help keep you on track.

They do a great job. The problem is the bold concept. A novel in thirty days? Those days include the Thanksgiving long weekend?? The days include the run up to Christmas??? The days include an election, a pandemic, quarantine, and three weeks of my child not being in school?!?!

Sorry. No spinning GIFs of stars can possibly make up for the fact that I do not have time to consistently write 5,000 words in a 24-hour period.

Go Your Own Way

Like Fleetwood Mac sang, “go your own way.” I’ve found that artificial deadlines don’t cut it for me. They might for other people, but I cannot swim against the current. I must have the wind at my back to be productive and successful. November might be a great month for some people. The weather in a lot of the country is ugly. It’s a good time to be inside. However, the month contains a major American holiday and a guaranteed four-day weekend, unless you work retail or service, in which case you’re forced to be at your job those days. No matter how you cut it, there aren’t actually thirty days in the month. There are 26, max. To write a whole novel (or revise one), you’ve got to not miss any of the others. For me, that was too hard.

I like the idea of being part of a national movement, and there is no requirement to complete the project. The idea behind it is to jumpstart your efforts. That is great and worthwhile, but it needs to happen for me in months like September-October and January-May. In other words, it needs to coincide with my son being in school, with my schedule being consistent, with being in town more. I’ve got to make my push when it works for me.

Don’t Knock NaNoWriMo ’til You Try It

In other words, if November works for you, do it. It’s great to have national support. However, if it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. The important point is that you’re writing, creating, and moving forward with your goals—at whatever time that’s best for you.

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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.

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