In the whirlwind of November, when I am busy writing for NaNoWriMo*, it’s easy to forget things I’ve learned in previous years. I start asking myself questions and am too tired to remember the answers. I forget basic things I once knew. This year I’ve made a list to refer to and I’m sharing it here for those who also suffer from amnesia in November.

November is National Novel Writing Month


Why in the hell am I doing this again?

  • Because it’s fun!
  • Because this is your audacious goal, the crazy thing you do every November. Some people run marathons, cook all Julia Child’s recipes in a year, or spend months hiking the PCT. NaNoWriMo is the dare you take.
  • Because this is an opportunity to try something new. Take a risk, set a goal. See what happens.

Why am I wasting my time writing this shitty draft when I already have plenty of shitty drafts to revise?

  • You are practicing writing and story-telling.
  • You are exploring new territory and trying things out. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out. Discovery of what doesn’t work is as important as discovering what does.
  • Writing is about process, not product. It’s the unexpected discoveries, the unfamiliar vistas, the surprising ideas that make writing so satisfying.
    To take a break from other projects and have some fun.


I’m stuck/ bored/ frustrated/ way behind on my word count/ ready to give up. What do I do now?

  • Make sure you are not trying to be someone you aren’t. Honor your process. Don’t fight who you are by trying to do something that is wrong for you. If you write best with a plan, then make a detailed outline. If plans freeze you up or make an interesting story go cold, then wing it.
  • Write to find out what you should do next. Brainstorm lists, puzzle on paper. The answers will come. (And if you are behind on your word count, there’s no law that says you can’t include these thoughts in your novel.)
  • Get some help. Visit the NaNoWriMo forums or ask for ideas from friends on Facebook. No one said you have to do this all alone.
  • Make a visual “map” of the story. Drawing can help generate ideas, even if you are only good at stick figures.
  • Blow something up. Or burn something down. Throw a disaster in and see what happens.
  • Skip to a different part of the story (forward or back) and start writing about that.
    Summarize the boring parts of your story in order to get to the good stuff.
  • Make lists instead of writing detailed descriptions. (This sounds like contradictory advice when you are trying to get your word count up, but I spend too much time writing descriptions. Instead, I just list the details I want to remember and move on.)
  • Fill your story with things you love to read about, not things you hate or think are “good” for your novel. Write Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries, not Bran Flakes.

Other things to remember:

  • You can do this.
  • No multi-tasking. Turn off the internet and the phone. Focus!
  • Pace yourself and take breaks. That day between writing sessions gives your muse valuable time to come up with new ideas.
  • Take care of yourself: rest, eat well, exercise, pamper yourself. Creative writing is hard work and racing the clock is wearing. You need to be at your best to survive.
  • Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of the creative process. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Everything will be all right.

Did I miss anything? What do you need to remember in November?

*NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

6 thoughts on “Important NaNoWriMo Reminders”

  1. Do you ever share the novels you write at the end of November? Sometimes when we get so deep into a project, we become overly critical of our work, and having other people give feedback helps put things back in perspective.

    1. Most of my NaNo novels have been read by at least one other person, but they usually regret it. While parts of the story are exciting and promising, they’re never really complete drafts. They don’t tell a whole story. I think I’m pretty good at setting aside my critic while I draft, and then looking at the draft later (I always wait several months at least before I re-read.) Most of my NaNo novels actually have potential. There are a couple I just don’t care about at all, and it’s nice to be able to dump something, because I have so much else I want to polish up!

      That’s way more of an answer than you probably wanted. I agree, other people are really good at helping us get better perspective on our work, but when it’s still early days, spending time to get feedback also has its drawbacks.

    1. Caffeine makes me an anxious insomniac so I have to write without stimulants. But I do drink herbal tea.

      1. Actually, it’s totally OK. I’m so high just on writing my NaNoWriMo novel right now that I’d be through the roof if I could do stimulants, too. 😉

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