NaNoWriMo: A Personal History

NaNoWriMo: A Personal Historyfeatured

Best I can remember, I first learned about National Novel Writing Month (better known in some circles as NaNoWriMo) sometime in high school. I remember thinking it was such a cool idea, but didn’t participate because…as far as I can tell, either because it was junior year and that was notoriously the toughest year, academically (I’m not really sure why. Maybe because we were taking SATs then?) or it was senior year and I was in the throes of college applications. Either way, those two Novembers really weren’t the best months for me to try to write 50,000 words in my own time.

NaNoWriMo: A Personal History {the ponytail diaries}

I tried to complete the challenge my freshman year of college, but, let’s face it, a little too much of my time then was spent…we’ll say bonding with my new dormmates over solo cups of shitty beer.

Sophomore year, though, I was all over it. I had registered on the site and updated my profile and I even had an idea for a novel ready to go.

I have no idea how I really managed it, but I managed to write pretty consistently that year and finished 50,000 words. The “novel” was nowhere near finished; I didn’t plan on it being complete in just 50,000 words anyway, and I jumped around and skipped scenes and wrote prologues and backstory that I knew wouldn’t actually be “in” the story, but it counted towards the word count. At some point that month, I decided this could be a trilogy and started sort of planning out the second and third books (never actually wrote those).

That novel was a random, crazy pirate story and I listened to a lot of Dropkick Murphy’s and Flogging Molly and Decemberists. I used it as an excuse to drink a lot of rum and coke’s during “catch-up” nights where I tried to churn out 3,000 words or more.

I also visited the NaNo forums daily and really loved it. It’s funny that now, I’m so reticent about actually participating in Facebook groups and other forum-type groups when I had such a great experience with the NaNo community. I asked questions and got encouragement and answered questions. I don’t know if I’d still be able to say this, but I posted frequently enough and the community at that time was small enough that I started to “recognize” a few other posters, and I’d see one of their responses and sort of chuckle, like “oh, that guy…” It was after that month, I think, that I learned the forums stayed active year-round (and to some, got better because it was “just the regulars” who still popped in to ask questions and talk about writing without all the craziness of November). I kept posting here and there after “winning” that year, but eventually fell out of the loop.

Since then, I’ve made maybe one or two other half-hearted attempts. I was always well aware of what November meant but just struggled to get an idea that would keep me excited and dedicated for a whole month and carve out the time NaNo required. I distinctly remember thinking last year “Oh, I definitely can’t do it now; I’ve got to focus all my time on growing my business and focusing on my blog.”

What changed this year? I think I’ve finally decided that now is the time to dedicate real time and effort to fiction writing. To stop making excuses (even if they’re valid ones). My life is only going to get more full as time goes on, so I’m running out of time to make and solidify this habit. NaNoWriMo demands a pace that isn’t sustainable for many, but hopefully it can finally kickstart a habit of showing up to the page.


  • I once thought about doing this. I signed up for the website and all that. And then … something hit me with it all. It seems like it’s forced if I am trying to pound it all in one month. I do the November blogging thing (post per day), but I do that several other times during the year, too. One day I hope I’ll have the commitment and drive to write a full book. I don’t think I’ll complete it in a month, but it needs to flow when I feel I have it. For those who can do it, I give major kudos. That’s a lot of work for one month, especially one that is as busy as November often is for people.

    • I think I’ve found the key is to have a story you’re really, really excited to write. Then it feels a little less like forced drudgery/desperately attempting to hit the word count.