NaNoWriMo – the one week countdown

Another oldie but goodie!

I will admit up front that, for this NaNoWriMo event, I’m not having to do much preparation. This is because I decided to do the next book in my YA story, which I started for the August Camp NaNo (barely squeaking out a win, with 37 words to spare), rather than the WWII romance I’d originally planned. Because I left a huge cliffhanger, there’s not much work involved in figuring out where to start.

However, since this is my 5th NaNo event in the last year, I do have plenty of experience with the last week and its stresses, excitements, jitters and twitters. (Tweets?)  Last year at this time, my mother had told me my plot was too complicated; my husband had told me there was no way I could finish a novel in a month (he was, strangely, okay with a 50,000 word goal, but not okay with double that); and I was frantically doing research on the Portuguese Spice Route. I was also trying to plan menus, clean the house, talk myself down off the ceiling, and wondering what in the world I would put down as my first few words.

As it turned out, the first few words were, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” thus starting the back story of Solomon’s Throne. I put all the research, plus many more hours of it during November, to good use, and managed to write a cohesive and cogent story out of the “too complicated” plot. (My mom has said every plot but one since was too complicated, but rather than being discouraged, I take it as a challenge!) But the week before I started my first ever NaNo, I had no idea what would happen.

How many hours would it take each day? I figured that, worst case scenario, it would be the equivalent of a full time job, or 40 hours a week. I was aiming at 4,000 words a day because I was estimating 15k words per location of my treasure hunt. I had no idea how long that would take since I’d never written a novel before. As it turned out, I wrote about 2-3 hrs a day on days that had heavy research, and 2 hrs a day on the days that didn’t. On the occasional “walking through cold molasses” day, I spent maybe 4 hours.

Would I have to write every single day for 30 days? I thought the answer to this was a resounding “yes,” because the task of finishing the novel seemed so daunting. What I didn’t count on was how tired being creative every single day would make me, both mentally and physically. Looking at my stickie note word count list from that event, here’s what I find:

  • I had 2 days between the 1st and the 11th where I didn’t meet my word count goal, and 4 where I vastly exceeded it.
  • I crossed 50k on November 12.
  • I took November 18th, 19th, and 24th (Thanksgiving) off completely.
  • I finished the book on November 25 with 88,651 words.

So now I know what to expect – but I had zero idea on October 24 of last year. And what I know now is that I cannot write that amount of creative words every single day without a break. So I just factor that in and enjoy the days off.

Would I become obsessed?  There’s a lot of rumor that, during November, you can talk about nothing other than your novel. For me, the opposite is true; other than catching my family and Facebook friends up on my word count, I found that I actually craved talking about something else, anything else, than my novel. It is very engrossing and all-encompassing while you’re writing, but my brain needs a rest. When I take my mind off of the story, things are still going on at the subconscious level (apparently). The same thing happens on the days off. I need that break for my writing to be coherent the next day.

Would I have time for anything else? This was a worry about things like reading, exercising, cooking. What I found is that a) I don’t like to read in the genre that I’m writing in, but reading other things, especially at bedtime, went on; b) the early darkness in November is more of a hindrance to exercise than NaNo; and c) while I planned my menus to a meal, I didn’t need to. I had plenty of time for cooking. I tend to write in the late morning and early afternoon, so cooking was a good way to “come down” from all that.

Other things I learned as that first NaNo went on:

  • I don’t do well writing at night. It’s hard for me to wind down and not have the story whizzing around in my head when I’m trying to go to sleep.
  • Everybody wants to know your word count. Not everybody wants to know what’s going on in the story. Let them read it when it’s finished and edited.
  • Posting your word count on Facebook is great for motivation – a few people will get invested in what you’re doing, and ask you if you don’t put it up one day. The NaNo site should be updated, but no one there is giving you peer pressure like your Facebook friends will.
  • When you go back and read what you’ve written, you can’t tell the days where the writing was hard from the days the writing was easy. So just write.

How are you spending the last week? Don’t panic – it will be fine! Spend some time enjoying the lovely fall weather. Bake some muffins. Go to the movies. And remember, you can do it!

(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month’:  “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit”)



Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing

18 responses to “NaNoWriMo – the one week countdown

  1. I don’t write well at night either. Ugh, I can’t focus on anything at night. I go to be at 10 usually because I’m such a morning person 🙂 I plan to write in the mornings.

    • I think I’m a mid-day person! haha! I usually go to bed around 10pm, too, although I do read for awhile. But I don’t wake up very early, and it takes me awhile (and a lot of coffee) to get my brain in gear.

  2. I have a plan to write 3K words per day minimum so that I’ll have 90K by the end of the period. When the brain is clicking I can meet this goal in about 3 hours per day. So thanks for the encouragement and hope you meet your goals too.

  3. lol I love the comic! It’s so right on.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Jennings. This is my first “real” NaNo (wasn’t invested in the prior ones), and I’m trying not to be nervous with the dwindling days of October. I actually dreamt about my characters last night.

  5. I really should do some preparation or I’ll be doing too much research while I try to write. I have no idea what to expect, so this was good to read. I do tend to write at night. I can crank out a lot of words between 10:00 and 2:00 in the morning when the house is quiet.

    • I wish I could write at night. Sometimes I have to, but then I just can’t get it out of my head to sleep. I need a buffer. But if it comes to not getting words or writing at night – I write at night! 🙂

  6. Spring

    You’ve inspired me. I’ve won NaNo three times before by hitting the 50k mark. My goal this year will be 80k. (I’d be brave like you and double it, but I have three small children, and I only get to write while they’re napping or after they’re in bed.)
    How am I preparing? By staring at my house and thinking, “Well, it could be a lot worse … and it probably will in November!”
    Good Luck!

  7. Good luck with Nano and thanks for following. Returned the favor 🙂
    BTW, how do you like the Alliance of Indie Authors? Thinking ab. joining.

    • Thanks! There are some very smart, successful people in the Alliance. Seems like most of the members are in the UK, which makes sense since it started there, so sometimes things don’t translate to us. But they’re very active on FB, esp, and post a lot of helpful info. I joined a couple of others, too, but this group is definitely the most active as far as info to help me with marketing and industry info.

    • Great! Let me know! The more the merrier… 😉

  8. Hi Jennings–
    These are great tips and you have me psyched for the journey. My hubby and I took a five hour drive north to see the trees in upper Michigan and along the way we plotted a sequel to my novel that I never intended to have. But readers have asked for one. Yay!

    I love your advice and will look for ways to get my word count done and relax too.

    Btw, I had not heard about the NaNoWriMo disclaimer. Where did you read that? Yikes. I need to go back and type that in some of my posts from years past.

    Thanks for sharing your past journeys with us.


    • Thanks and good luck! I’m sad not to be doing it this year, but I’ll be standing by with pom poms for cheering all of you on! 🙂

      The disclaimer was last year. They made all the regionals send it out, and I think it went out in an email, too. To me, it’s stupid – publicity is publicity. But I went back and added it.

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