The Madness that IS NaNoWriMo

Well, another November has passed and another “successful” attempt at NaNoWriMo. By that I mean I write a 50,000 word “novel” within the thirty day time frame. That’s five years in a row. Woo hoo! Drop the confetti and break out the champagne. I just won the Super Bowl.

A bit of sarcasm? Yes, certainly. And for several reasons. The first is that 50,000 words is not really a novel, more like a novella. When Colleen Lindsay was still a literary agent, I sent her a query letter. It asked for the number of words. My manuscript was between 50 and 60 thousand words. I got back an automated response indicating that it was too short. She didn’t even read my query; good, bad, or indifferent, her computerized system decided to filter me out. So either she was extremely picky or Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo) is lying about 50,000 words being a novel.

Second, what kind of writing is it that puts you on such a heated deadline and expects something resembling a story? That’s the point. There is no sense to be made of it. You could be like Jack Nicholson from The Shining and just right “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” five thousand times and, voila, you’ve won NaNoWriMo.

Third, after you’ve done it a few times, it’s not about be able to finish but doing it in the quickest time possible. The tenth, twelfth, fourteenth of the month and you are a certified hero to your NaNo friends. What if, at the stroke of midnight on October 31, having consumed copious amounts of your favorite caffeine, started writing just about anything, would it be possible to complete it in one day?

There is the positive side. it forces you to sit down and write, perhaps not totally meaningless yet not as structured as you would like. It does give you a sense of accomplishment. It’s good training for freelancers who want to know what it’s like to work on a deadline.

As far as the overall quality, pay no attention at all to that first so-called draft. It’s worthless. My first three efforts have undergone revision and still (in my mind, at least) have some merit. Last year’s had great characters and a good concept but the story was so highly illogical with subplots started and stopped in the same chapter and minor characters brought in like deus ex machina.

This year, I was on vacation for the first five days of the month and I still wanted to compete. So I outlined twenty-five chapters of two thousand words each, knowing that if I stuck to my schedule I would “win”. On top of that, I wrote early on weekends and doubled up on some evenings. All for the sake of a 50,000 word story to upload and be verified so I could print up a cute certificate and download some impressive badges for use on Facebook and my website and my blog. Gee whiz!

I can’t wait until next year.



  1. lawrenceez said,

    December 2, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Hi, never attempted the NaNoWriMo. I think I’d find that I couldn’t muster up 50,000 words in a month. I tend to prefer to develop ideas as I write.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      December 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      Agreed. I use it as an exercise, probably in the same way that a musician runs scales as a warm up.


  2. jenniferneri said,

    December 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Me neither. Forcing that out, I think I’d end up with pure garbage, but beyond that, I just don’t think I’d enjoy the process. I like to indulge myself in writing, and streaming into a word count. uggh. not for me. I’m pushing myself right now, and at a slower pace than that, and at times I get upset at this need to finish (for reasons I won’t talk about now), but sometimes I have to push past my comfort if I’m to attain that goal.

    Good for you and well done!! Five years in a row, that’s an accomplishment.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      December 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      It is merely to force myself into discipline. It tends to lag as you get older. Trust me on that one.


  3. Cathy said,

    December 11, 2011 at 9:42 am

    i can’t write under pressure. or in that time frame and word count. i write garbage and resentfully. i have def come to the conclusion that nano and i are like a bad marriage and the best thing to do is to cut out early and never look back.


    • tikiman1962 said,

      December 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      I definitely agree that serious writing can not be done on NaNo. However, the impulsive and spontaneity that it forces upon you can, under the right circumstances, open the door to something amazing and interesting. On that off chance alone I attempt it. “Life is like a month-long writing insanity; you never know what you’re gonna get.”


      • Cathy said,

        December 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

        yes, some lucky breaks shine through just by committing to sit at it everyday. that much i took away from the two years i attempted it.


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