Monday, November 6, 2017

NaNoWriMo or Bust! (Mary Strand)

This month’s theme is NaNoWriMo, or NaNo, or National Novel Writing Month.  In our house, it’s also known (to quote my husband) as “Oh, no. Oh, God. Here we go again!”

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write at least 50,000 new words on a novel in the month of November.  To achieve that, you basically write.  Every day.  For long stretches of time and past the point when you’d usually quit.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Disclaimer:  I wrote this blog post in October.  The first rule of NaNoWriMo is that, during November, ALL of your words (to the extent humanly possible) go into your manuscript.  Not into blog posts, or Facebook posts of excessive length (which would be most of mine), or holiday letters, or that note you’ve been meaning to write to your aunt Tillie.  Save it for December.  (Unless Tillie isn’t expected to live past November, in which case forget the note and go visit her NOW.)

Okay, I don’t actually skip writing my usual Facebook posts in November.  I also exercise, play guitar, go out to hear live music, eat at Five Guys ALL THE TIME, and do everything else that makes up my life.

That’s the thing: there are exceptions to every NaNo rule.  The truth is that 50,000 is a glorious sum of words, but life is to be lived.  Even during NaNo.
Bradley Cooper is the inspiration for the hero in my NaNo undertaking this year.
I mean, it's not like I'd post a picture of him for NO GOOD REASON, right?

Many NaNo’ers will tell you that you must write Every Single Day, with the possible exception of Thanksgiving, and they think you should really write then, too.  I learned during my first NaNo that my creative well dries up if I write seven days a week.  So, with rare exception, I write “only” six days a week during NaNo.  Instead of aiming for 1,667 words per day, I aim for 2,000 or more words a day.  Once in a while, 3,000.  It gives me a cushion for when life gets in the way.

Because life DOES get in the way.  As it should.

On Thanksgiving, when life definitely gets in MY way, I do try to write something.  Anything.  500 words.  And then I abandon my book for the rest of the day in favor of skiing or hiking, playing football (note: we all cheat, wildly, or at least I do), and wild Jell-O wars with my son at dinner.  (Don’t ask.)

Many will also tell you that, during NaNo, you should write fast and wildly and forget about revising anything.  If I did that, I’d wind up with a ton of garbage at the end of the month.  No way!  I write the same as always during NaNo, just more of it.  I do my usual light edit at the beginning of each writing day.  I don’t cut corners just because it’s NaNo.  My goal, always, is to write a good book.

The only thing I do differently, really, is to park my butt in a chair for an hour or two longer each day.  When possible, I also sneak in an extra half hour late in the day.  That’s it.  You’d think I could do this 12 months a year, but ... I can’t.  I don’t make widgets in a factory line.  I write novels.  I need to dream them, mull them over during long walks, and stare into space while pondering a character’s name or looks or the (fast) car she drives.  But for one month a year, nearly every year, I do less pondering and more writing, almost as if I am making widgets in a factory line.  Frankly, NaNo is a mildly insane undertaking.

And I love it.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. That's interesting about saving your words only for the book! I actually didn't know that was a rule.

    1. I swear someone has a "rule" for everything! But, yeah, I've heard that from a lot of people. (Nothing is helping me with NaNo this year, however! lol.)