The Siren Call of National Novel Writing Month


Fall brings the melancholy whisper from writers everywhere: Should I do NaNoWriMo? For those who are unaware of this event, National Novel Writing Month is in November. The Office of Letters and Light, a nonprofit organization, sponsors various events online and around the country to get writers writing. The goal in November is to write 50,000 words, an average of 1,667 words per day. A double-spaced page, average font, has approximately 250-275 words per page. This means 6-7 typewritten pages per day.

Two years ago, I met the 50K goal and finished a rough draft of a first novel. And I’ve been asking myself the same question this year and these are the pros and cons I’ve come up with:


  • I learned that I can write 50,000 words in a month.
  • It brought a goal-oriented level of focus that I seem to be failing at in my daily life.
  • I got a lot of silly blog material from it.
  • I learned about my weaknesses as a writer (although this was mostly in the aftermath of editing).
  • I learned more about novel construction – story arcs, conflict resolution, foreshadowing, etc.
  • I got to whinge on interminably with fellow writers about flattened butts, hand cramps and dry eyeballs.


  • That’s a lot of words for one month and if you are a procrastinator who gets hit with a flu bug, you’ll be writing your last 5,000 words in a couple of days and wishing you were not.
  • Cut to two years later and I have still not finished editing my first draft. It is the dark shadow in the study – that thing I feel compelled to finish, which has led to loathing, denial and self-mocking.

 NaNoWriMo is a go for me this year. I’m struggling to find my way back to writing, but seem unable to set a clear goal and follow through on it. 50,000 words, 30 days – that’s pretty straightforward. And I can devolve into a writer sapien once again. Showers will be optional, as will other forms of communication beyond grunting and wild gestures. I’m looking forward to it.


29 thoughts on “The Siren Call of National Novel Writing Month

  1. I did 2 years and skipped last year for obvious reasons. I’m wrestling with whether or not to do it this year. I have done some half-hearted editing on both novels I wrote, and I wonder if I have another one in me, and do I have the mental clarity and focus and the energy to do it again. The 2 that I did were while I was working full time, and now I’m retired. I will probably be waffling right up until Nov. 1st.


    1. You do have a lot on your plate at the moment. I am somewhat desperate to bring my life back to writing. I have one more week of intense volunteering, but then things slow down and we head into winter. I wrote a serious novel last round and I’d like to have some fun with this next one – I really want to make myself laugh. Regardless of what happens with any drafts, our skills become stronger for the experience.


      1. That’s true. Just the act of writing is sometimes enough. My novels were both historical, but totally different. And both times I at least had a clue what I wanted to write. This time I have nothing. Yet.


        1. I’m going to try to go in with an outline this time. Last time, I just started off with an idea. I suppose it takes a few rounds to figure out what actually works for a writer. I’m already fantasizing about saying to anyone who asks anything of me…”I’m sorry, I can’t, I haven’t met my word count today…”


    1. The last time around, I wrote a novel draft for an idea that I’d had in my head for about 5 years, so I usually take the long way round as well. This time, I have a vague idea, but mostly I just want to write funny scenes. I think humor is much more difficult to write than straight fiction. You’re miles ahead of me on that skill!


  2. Good luck, Michelle! I find this competition (even if it’s only with yourself) to be arbitrary and unhelpful. But I can see how it might jumpstart some folks’ process. I’ll just keep slogging away with my Shitty First Drafts and Sloppy Seconds.


    1. It does tend to be a numbers game. In some ways, it gives me permission to be single-minded about writing. When juggling so many other people’s agendas, as I am now, it’s easy for me to lose sight of things that make me happy and this is one way to push me back on track.


  3. I’m a little anxious about it. Just recently accepted defeat regarding a major goal – something completely different, but also important. On the one hand, I really, really ACHE to get onto a serious writing track, and I have a story that I’ve been procrastinating writing, and I believe this might be the way to go. On the other … I’m scared of another failure. Argh!


    1. I rush headlong into things where failure is always a possibility. I would rather fail a thousand times (and have) then to not try at all.
      And failure in this instance just means not turning your homework on time. No biggie! Try it out and see if you find a groove. You just might surprise yourself – I did. Last year, I made a halfhearted attempt and quit after week one – there was just too much going on at the time. This year, I’ll give it another go. Practice, practice, practice…


    1. If I were consistently writing at this point, it likely wouldn’t be on my radar. But that’s not the case and so I’m taking advantage to get the wheels rolling once again. I’m going with “not my best work” versus “no work at all”, which doesn’t seem to be an issue for you!

      Liked by 1 person

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