Ready... Set... NaNoWriMo!
Written by
Pam McGaffin
October 2016
Written by
Pam McGaffin
October 2016

I signed up for National Novel Writing Month this year even though I am quite possibly the slowest experienced writer on the planet, or maybe because I am the slowest . . .

It took me about five years, give or take, to complete my first novel, The Leaving Year, which I’m now shopping around to prospective agents and small publishers.

Of the four agents who asked to read all or part of the novel, two have declined it, but one was really nice and called my story “quite compelling!” 

In any case, I need to move on to Novel 2, if only to distract myself from waiting on Novel 1.

I’ve done some research. I have a premise and several pages of notes. But I haven’t started writing.

NaNoWriMo, I hope, will light a fire under my butt, incinerating my procrastinating inner naysayer in the process. This naysayer/critic/editor, whatever you want to call it, has no business butting in while I’m writing my first draft, but I have a hard time silencing her.

That’s one reason it took me so long to write Leaving Year. I was editing and rewriting and wallowing in despair before I had the whole story down – a big no-no if you actually want to finish the damn thing.

It took all my will to finish. That, and the fact that I had told too many people what I was doing.

I wouldn’t recommend my process. I didn’t really have one. No outline. No plan. No routine. Pantsing it the whole way, I was often so overwhelmed or discouraged that I’d do almost anything, including scoop dog poop, to put off facing it.

A wildly productive day for me was 500 (new) words – words that I’d often end up cutting or editing the following day.

With NaNoWriMo, I won’t be able to do that. To complete 50,000 words in 30 days, I’ll have to average 1,667 words a day. The goal is creation not perfection or even quality. I’ll have gag my naysaying critic or send her packing to, say, Antarctica. She seriously needs to chill out.

Even if I don’t get to 50,000 words by 11:59:59 p.m. on Nov. 30, I hope to have developed a healthier, more joyful writing habit by then. That alone will make this crazy project well worth the time and effort.

I’d love to hear from anybody out there who has written a novel or the start of a novel in November. How did it go for you? Do you have any tips for this NaNoWriMo newbie?

NaNoWriMo Fun Facts

  • Nearly half a million people are expected to participate this year in what has become the largest writing event in the world.
  • Chris Baty started the project in 1999 with 21 friends in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • The month was changed from July to November "to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather."
  • Some notable novels have come out of NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for ElephantsErin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.


Photo credit: Steven Bedard

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