NaNoWriMo Newbie Jitters

In less than two weeks time begins 30 days of literary abandon. A month where writers come together in mass insanity to churn out 50,000 words before midnight, November 30th.

Insanity I tell you.

And yet, I feel obligated to inform you that I have decided to participate in said bedlam and join the others at the loony bin. This year I’m going to pop my NaNoWriMo cherry and attempt the (seemingly) impossible.

For those of you unfamiliar with this annual phenomenon, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and every November writers are challenged to writing 50,000 words before the end of the month.

What do you win? You win a 50,000 word first draft is what! Along with what I’m guessing would be a new found love for time spent not writing, an envy of eight-handed aliens (think how much quicker you could type!), and of course the pride and absolute joy at having achieved the unachievable.

Being my first NaNo I have to admit to some nerves. Never have I ever written anything so monstously long in my life. Do I even know 50,000 words? What if I get writers’ block after day two? Will my fingers fall off if I type so much? God forbid, what if I FAIL?

All valid concerns, in my opinion. But none of them compare to the biggest issue of all; What if my story is rubbish and I realise that I’m not, in fact, a writer at all?

Cue teary break down. Pass the tissues will you?

I’ve been reading a lot about how people prepare for the challenge. Plotters and Pantsters, chapter outlines, character profiles, synopses, writing prompts, calendars, word counters, daily goals. The list goes on and yet what is resoundingly clear is that, like with any type of writing, no one way will work for everyone. You’ve got to find what works for you.

So, what am I going into this challenge with? How have I prepared for the ultimate writer’s test? Well, my plot goes something like this:

Chosen one.

Imminent evil.

Kingdom in peril.

It doesn’t look like much, huh? That’s because it isn’t. Whilst I’ve got a few ideas lulling around my bizarre little brain, I’m going to take the ‘pantster’ approach, eg, write by the seat of my pants. I suppose you could say this is an experiment of sorts, seeing as those of you who have been here a while will know that I like to plot. I NEED to plot. But I’m not going to.

Mostly, it’s out of fear that I might realise it’s rubbish before I even get to November 1st and give up before I give myself a chance. But it’s also because the idea of NaNoWriMo is not to write the next best-seller or to start December with a polished piece of high literature ready too submit to publishers and competitions around the world. It’s to overcome inertia, to not over think it, to just WRITE and have something to work with once the month is over. The website explains that:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

To build without tearing down. What a great strategy, who would’ve thought?

I’m going to have a decent go at ‘winning’, but if I finish November with just one page, one paragraph, one sentence even, of perfected prose, the root of an idea that will lead to a better one, or even 50,000 words showing how not to write a novel, then I will have gained something.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Any other newbies out there giving it a crack? Want to hold hands and weep at the insanity of it all together? Please tell me I’m not alone here!

For anyone wanting advice on how to get through November with some semblance of sanity, head over to Terrible Minds where Chuck Wendig gives some writing advice to help you stay on target during NaNoWriMo.

Happy writing!

~storytelling nomad~

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52 comments on “NaNoWriMo Newbie Jitters

  1. Good luck! I’ve tried NaNo a number of times before and never quite made it to the end. I did get about 20 or 25K done one year. But regardless of if you get to 50K, it’s worth trying.

  2. I won my first NaNo, haven’t been able to get any serious output since. It is fun, and the community is the best part.

    I got a couple of good lines out of it, plus bragging rights.

    Best of luck to you! Remember, have fun!

    • Bragging rights are definitely a huge motivator! Well done for finishing it at least once. I’m hoping in a month’s time I’ll be able to say the same….eek!

  3. Last year was my first try at NaNo, but the timing was horrible. Not only do I go to college, but right in November, I started a part-time job – my first job ever – to go with it. I finished with a rough 22k words and an idea that will be figured out and completed some point in the future.
    This year, I’m taking a different approach.

    My main project is a four-part series. I’ve passed the 50k mark for the first book and now sit at 52,000 words, with a rough 85k planned total. I’m hoping to use NaNo to finish this book and start the second one. That, or get further into the first book of my side project, which I started two weeks ago.

    Good luck with NaNo!

  4. I decided to take the plunge this year as well. Knowing full well that I’ll inevitably end up with something undeniably rubbish I’ve decided to embrace that fact and write something which is completely ridiculous.

    • That sounds like a master plan! I, too, am anticipating a 50,000 word pile of rubbish come November 31st, but am also marginally hopeful that something amazing will come of it! if only eight words or two paragraphs or one page of amazing…ha! See you there and good luck!

  5. This is my second year doing NaNo. It’s lots of fun, I promise. The forums are helpful. Just write. I wrote over 50,000 words last year and will again this year. Okay, so it was 27 words over, but still… This is one time when quantity not quality is okay. You can always go back and edit. I did. Four times, and now I have something that passes for publishable.

    • Yes, the forums seem awfully promising as motivational tools. Well done for hitting 50k last year! I’m using stories like yours to convince myself that it can be done :) Good luck and see you there in a week!

  6. Good luck with NaNo. This is my second year, but it’s also an experiment. I burned myself out last year and have hardly written anything since. So if it happens again this year, despite having written a new novel, I won’t be participating again.

    • Thanks Lissa! Ahh yes, I’m afraid of a similar scenario – burning myself out and then losing the will to write again. I just keep thinking of The Little Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can! :P

  7. Katy, you got this! I did it for the first time last year, and “won” with three hours to go…it was the best feeling in the world to actually be able to say, “Holy crap! I wrote a BOOK!” Granted, I got no sleep (my younger daughter still wasn’t sleeping through the night), we were eating cereal for dinner every night, laundry didn’t get folded for a month, I forgot my husband’s name, and I actually grumbled about Thanksgiving because it meant I had to squeeze in 1,700 words on another day, but it was so worth it. It’s neat, and yes, the community is awesome. And it gets you started–I just finished editing that book (yes, I had to rework the whole thing, and yes, I’m aghast at all those typos), but it gave me a foundation and a kick in the pants.

    Take a deep breath. Call your friends and family now before think you’ve dropped off of the planet next month, stock up on coffee…and go. Will look forward to your “I did it!” post in a few weeks. :)

    • Woah! Three hours to spare is quite daring of you! Ha! Congrats on the editing and rework; it must be an amazing feeling! I’ve started spreading the word that I’ll be prone to the life of a hermit and frequent moments of insanity next month, but then when I think about it, that’s not so different to the usual really. Sigh.

      I’m liking your faith in looking forward to my “I did it!” post come Nov 31st. At least one of us is confident! Thank you Leah :)

  8. We’r’e moving right around the 1st and I’m already 60 pages into my next novel. Is that a good enough excuse for not manning up? I have seriously considered it though. Whether I do or not, good luck to you.

    I’ll even start you out. Here goes: Lani looked out over the ashen forest, covered in the charcoal dust from a thousand dragons, and finally understood the true meaning of sacrifice.

    • That is DEFINITELY a good enough excuse for not manning up. 60 pages would be a dream for me! If you decide to take the plunge, do let me know how you go!

      A writing prompt?! You are sensational! And so is that starting sentence. When it makes me famous I’ll be sure to credit you in the acknowledgements ;)

    • Hey Gretchen! Even though it’s called ‘National’ Novel Writing Month, it is by no means limited to one country. And I’m pretty sure it originated in the US, so us Australians are merely following the trend ;) Definitely give it a go with me if you’re at all tempted! Now is as good a time as any right?!

  9. I love NaNo, although I’ve only actually won once (on my first try). Every other year I’ve tried it, I’ve either been pregnant (twice. Pregnancy kills my brain.) or working ridiculous hours (gotta love those 70+ hour working weeks!). This year I’ve got neither of those problems and am, of course, jumping back in.

    Even when I didn’t win, I still manage to write about 20,000 words each time, and the experience has been fantastic. Here’s my tips:

    1) Love the forums. There’s so much support there, you’ll feel like you’ve just fallen into a pool of warm comfort.
    2) Don’t love the forums too much. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend all your time playing in that pool of comfort and not getting any actual writing done.
    3) Time limits are your friend.

    I find it works best to use the forums as a reward. I’ll write for 30 minutes non-stop, and if I achieve X words, I’ll spend 15 minutes on the forums.

    Good luck!

    • Great to hear you’ll be joining me in the loony bin this year Jo! 20k a month is still pretty impressive in my opinion, especially with babies on the way and 70+ hour working weeks (I actually didn’t know that many hours fit in a week?!).
      Thanks for the tips. I sure need all the help I can get! Good luck to you too and see you there!

    • Woo! Thanks Whitney. As you can see, my idea is *quite* raw! I anticipate contacting you midway through the month though, panicking at having written myself into a dead end due to the lack of direction. At which point I’ll need you to kick my butt and help me out of the mess! :)

      • I’d like to keep blogging at least once a week if I can, but realise that I will either exceed that in procrastination or fall short if NaNoWriMo takes over my brain. I’m happy to roll with whatever happens, no pressure!

  10. You can do it! I attempted NaNo several times in the past and never quite made it past 5-10K words. Last year, despite still writing my thesis and working full time and all of that “excuse” stuff you can hide behind as a writer, I did 67K and still didn’t finish the novel in the month (one of those long-winded epic fantasy things that ended up around the 85K mark). You can absolutely do it, and there’ll be lots of people doing it alongside you!

    • You are a machine Stef. I couldn’t imagine doing any more writing than was absolutely necessary when I was writing my thesis. *shudder*
      Congrats on 65k though, and good luck this year. Let’s cross this damn finish line together!

  11. You are not alone; this will be my first time as well. And while I understand how daunting the challenge can be (hey, it’s only 1800 words a day, right?), I’m up for it.

    If you’re looking for hand holding during the experience, you’ll find me on the NaNo site under this same name. I don’t mind the hand holding; I’ll probably need a little of it myself.

    Let’s rock this out together, Katy!

    • Definitely looking for hand holding, Raymond! My username is ‘storytellingnomad’.

      “Let’s rock this out together”….I like it! Let’s do this!

  12. I’m also participating. While I’m not exactly a newbie, I do plan to hit and surpass 50K this year!

    Good luck, Katy! May the words be with you.

    Lorna

  13. This is my second year doing nano, and I definitely only wrote 7,000 words last year. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. Last year I pantsed it. This year, I’m plotting a little.

    We should be writing buddies. I’ll figure out what my name is and we can connect.

    • Let’s totally be writing buddies! My username is ‘storytellingnomad’.
      I’m fearful of my ‘pantster’ approach, but taking the plunge nonetheless. I was hoping to have a little more time to plan, but I’ve plain and simply run out. I’m sure we can do it though Kathryn! See you there!

  14. I was a newbie last year and had an awesome time. It’s intense, but it’s worth it. Remember NOT TO EDIT. Editing comes after. Just get all those ideas down on the page, even if you realize halfway through that things are going differently than you meant them to. If things don’t make perfect sense, that’s okay, too. The point is to just get the whole thing out there and then you can go through it and add and subtract whatever you feel is needed.

    I’m going to be doing it this year for the second time, and I think it might just drive me insane because I’m also a full time student… Oh, well, it’s going to be a fun kind of crazy :D.

    • Not to edit…this will be a problem for me because I am a word nazi and must have it looking, spelling, and sounding just right. Hopefully it won’t be my downfall :|
      Fun kind of crazy is definitely the way to describe this madness! I’m studying too, but by correspondence so am at least grateful that I don’t have the distraction of having to go to class. Good luck to you and see you there!

  15. The good thing about 50,000 words is that you can repeat some of them. Hence, you needn’t be concerned about your vocabulary. ;-)

    I’m totally excited for you. You’ll do great. Keep us posted!

    • You make a valid point Alexis! Ah! I’m excited too…I just wanna WIN! I’ll definitely keep you posted, whether it be screaming at my failure or screaming at my joy…!

  16. I did my first Nano when I was in grade 11, and succeeded. In grade 12 I had to cut it short to a .5 nano and succeeded in that.
    I’m sure that you won’t have any problems figuring out what to write.
    One of my friends did fanfiction one year, and another did a sequel to her previous nano novel.
    I hope you have fun, definitely sign up for a region so you can go to events and whatnot (all night write-ins are amazing), and remember that if you can’t figure out what to do next, ask yourself what you wouldn’t do and then have your character do it :D
    Also, if you’re in Toronto, Kill Errol. That is a must for all Toronto Nano-ers.
    If you aren’t from Toronto and read this, go to Toronto and meet Errol :P He writes nano songs. look him up on youtube

    • I couldn’t imagine having the discipline to do something like this when I was in Year 11…good on you!
      Unfortunately my region doesn’t exist within NaNo, so I’m classified “Australia:Other” which is quite vague and limits the likelihood of events happening in my area. It’s okay though because I’m finding the online community very supportive.
      Kill Errol? Intriguing…I must know what that is about.

  17. Best of luck… I’m sure you will blitz it in no time.. .plus I’ll be on the sidelines cheering you along:) One day I shall attempt the Nano:)

    • What would I be without at least one person cheering me on! Thank you Tania! One day you shall attempt it and I’ll be your motivational squad in return :)

  18. Good luck!

    I failed at my first NaNo but have won two since then. My best advice? Shoot for 2000 a day and go further in the beginning of you can. 100 words describing clothing or scenery totally works when you’re stuck. Know your ending…where you want to go.

    NaNo is a great experience. I’m excited you’re doing it!

    • I think you’re onto something here…go hard in the beginning in case you lose steam towards the end.
      Congrats on being a winner twice! You’re clearly a rock star!

  19. Sounds like a cool thing you’re doing. I’m sure you will do a great job. I’m in the process of writing a story for a personal essay/memoir contest that is being sponsored by Writer Magazine. All entries must be submitted by Nov. 30, so I guess next month will be a busy one for the both of us.

    Wish you the best on your novel!

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  21. Pingback: What 1,100 Words Looks Like: Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2011 « The (Writer's) Waiting Room

  22. Katy,

    I’m also taking on NaNoWriMo, and I’m a little scared of it. I don’t even have my own computer to work on, plus there’s school. Nevermind those. I’ll do it anyway. The whole remembering not to edit is going to be hard but helpful, I think.

    Really hoping I can come up with a few ideas by tomorrow morning.

  23. Pingback: A shaky start to 30 days and 30 nights of literary abandon « storytelling nomad

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