Monday, November 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Through the Eyes of a Novice

Guest blog by Lisen Minetti

I first heard of NaNoWriMo only a few months ago, when I finally crawled out from underneath my rock wanting to connect with other writers. Before then, writing was just something I loved to do for myself. I rarely shared my stories, or talked about my writing with others. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was an entire month dedicated to novel writing!

However, I viewed the idea of NaNoWriMo with a healthy dose of skepticism at first. The thought that someone – namely me – could write 50,000 words in 30 days seemed like madness! The fact that I was seriously considering participating left me questioning what little sanity I claim to have.

On the one hand, I did have a story floating around in my head, and had just finished work on book one, so I knew I was capable of finishing a manuscript. On the other hand, however, a little voice inside my head kept reminding me that it took the better part of eight months to write that first book; and that my word count of said book was only around 35,000 words. Yet here I was, contemplating challenging myself not only to write 15,000 words beyond that, but to do so in one-eighth of the time.

But I love a challenge. So I signed up for NaNoWriMo in September with all the same feelings as if I were walking into a particularly scary haunted house: fear, trepidation, and a twinge of excitement. I had no idea what to expect and the possibility that I was going to pee my pants and run away screaming half way through was very real.

To my delight, once I entered the world of National Novel Writing Month, excitement began to edge out the fear. Despite my pantster leanings, I started to jot down ideas and notes to help me organize my thoughts for the upcoming project. I wrote out a timeline for characters to follow, knowing this would help as the entire story took place over the space of five days. I created note cards describing the powers my little witch discovered in book one, and all the ones I wanted her to discover in book two. I pitched my story to my cat, who really didn’t care enough to be bothered with it, and also to my husband, who was helpful in ferreting out holes in the plot. And when I finished all my prep work on October 1, I was ready to write!

Unfortunately for me, National Novel Writing Month is November, not October, so my story had to sit. And about a week before November, I realized I wasn’t excited about my story anymore. Panic ensued and I was almost ready to call off the whole thing. I mean, how could I possibly write a story I wasn’t excited about? Well, there’s the rub. I realized that if I only wrote when I was excited about what I was working on, nothing would ever get finished.

So come November 1, I sat down and just started writing. I didn’t stay up until midnight on Halloween; I didn’t get up early to start writing before work. I waited until I got home from work that Friday and made a commitment to sit in front of my computer until something – anything – came out. And eventually it did come. Within the first few hours, the enthusiasm flooded back and in the first three days I wrote over 10,000 words.

By the end of week two – November 14 – I had written close to 30,000 words. There were days when I hated every word I wrote. Nights when I felt like doing anything else other than writing. Times where I wanted to do nothing more than delete whole sections of prose. But I didn’t. I wrote through it. And came out on the other side.

Week three of NaNoWriMo is upon us and I have written nearly 40,000 words. And with a little luck and lot of hard work, I will ‘win’ NaNoWriMo by the end of this weekend, hitting the coveted 50,000 word mark.

On top of that, I blogged nearly every single day. I continued to help my kids with their homework. I haven’t missed any meals, or suffered from an insane lack of sleep. I worked a full forty hour week every week just like always. And I had the flu.

So how did this miracle happen?

It happened because I embraced the spirit of NaNoWriMo at the outset: I sat down and wrote every single day. Writing became part of my daily routine. If I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about plots and character flaws and story lines. During homework time I would imagine how my characters would behave when their mothers’ were helping them study. When I was sick, exhausted and so cold I could barely feel my fingers, I wrote about the misery I felt, which evolved into a new scene I didn’t anticipate at the outset. But it worked.

When I got frustrated at my story or hit a wall, I wrote some more. I turned to my blog creating a “Dear Abby” format to give myself encouragement and vent my frustrations. I made up stupid songs and skits. I was creative in other ways, and soon my story was back on track.

Most importantly I didn’t give up. I kept writing, even when I didn’t want to. I didn’t necessarily add words to my WIP every single day, but I wrote every single day. Something. Anything. Just to keep writing. Because not writing is the only surefire way to ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo.

And if I end up not hitting the 50,000 word count? Well, I am okay with that too. I write middle grade, so my story may not have that many words to it. But even if I don’t hit my word count, I have something to be proud of: A first draft that I didn’t have on October 31 and the knowledge that I didn’t give up. And there’s always next year.

About today's guest blogger:

Lisen Minetti really hates writing bios because she feels stupid talking about herself in the third person. She lives, works and writes outside of Atlantic City with her husband, two kids and an evil cat. Her current WIP is a middle grade series, the Cady Martin Witchsteries:

As if growing up weren't hard enough, twelve year old Cady Martin has to live with a big secret: she's a witch. While she is busy trying to learn her newfound powers and keep her secret from the rest of the world, she also finds that she has a knack for attracting trouble. No matter where she goes, danger seems to follow her - both from this realm and the supernatural realm.

You can connect with Lisen on her blog or on Twitter.



  1. that's something i have emphasized to other writers. just get words on the screen/page. doesn't matter how good or not good those words are, but just get them down. sometimes we have clutter in our minds that need to come out before we get to the "real" writing. even if you throw away 10,000 words, it might be necessary to get those 10 grand out because it's the 10 that come are that you really need to get to. just keep tying. click click click click click click...

  2. Wonderful article, Lisen. You explain the whole NaNOWriMo project so well, especially to non-writers, who have no idea what we're talking about. Good luck on your word count:)

  3. Wow-- I didn't realize this was your first NaNo-- you seem like one of the old pros (who I read about from a skeptical distance, blown away by the idea of being so productive). I do hope that you "win" though you've clearly already accomplished something incredible.


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