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Today is Halloween, but for thousands of writers all over the country it’s another holiday: The night before NaNoWrimo.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, those who are participating in NaNoWriMo commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Technically, a 50,000 word book is a novella, but calling it a novel saves NaNos from having to explain what a novella is and using up valuable time that is in short supply during NaNoWriMo.


I have a history with NaNoWriMo.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo on and off since 2006 or 2007. I’ve reached my goal a couple of times, but I’ve never come out of it with even a draft of a novel that I could work with later. There are several reasons for this including work and school and just general lameness getting in the way, but there’s also a big difference between pecking out fifty thousand words and writing the first draft of a novel.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days only requires time, energy, and enough alcohol to keep your fingers moving. Writing the first draft of a novel requires time, patience, and a peaceful mind, all of which are in short supply, if you’re trying to write a novel in a month.

Some people can take the speed writing they do during NaNoWriMo and successfully turn it into a novel they wouldn’t be embarrassed to show anyone else. I am not one of those people. When I attempt NaNoWriMo it comes out as a tangled mess of dream sequences, drunken ramblings, and song lyrics.

That is, at least, when I attempt it with a first draft.

I have a theory that, while being forced to sit down and write 50,000 words in a month isn’t the best way for me to write a first draft, it might be an excellent way to write a second draft, which is why this year, I doing my own hacked version of NaNoWriMo.

This year, I’m doing NaNoWriMo differently.

A Novel in Progress

In February, I finished grad school and graduated with an MFA and the first draft of a novella called The Dream Life of Toby McClure about the aftermath of a failed startup in an alternate present day San Francisco where the lines between computer memory and human memory is blurry.

After I graduated, I decided that the novella I wrote in grad school is only half of the story, so over the past ten months, I’ve written the first draft of the half of the novel I didn’t write in grad school, and I’m in the process of stitching the two halves together. I reduced the new half of the novel to note cards, and I’m currently revising by re-writing those scenes from memory, converting them from third person into first person and past tense into present tense in the process.



This is my goal for November.

My goal is to complete 29414 words of my novel during the month of November, which works out to 1337 words a day, 5 days a week.

Those who are familiar with NaNoWriMo math probably noticed that I’m planning to take the weekends off AND my goal is 300 words a day less than the usual daily NaNoWriMo goal.

I’m committing to write less each day for four reasons:

  1. As my husband said when I told him, 1337 is a lucky number.
  2. I’m already 7839 words into this draft. (Yes, I know you’re not supposed to count old words when doing NaNoWriMo.)
  3. I need this motivation in the first place because revision is not as sexy as writing a first draft, and the particular revision I’m doing is incredibly tedious and involves a lot of verb tense munching that I hate doing. I know from experience that pushing myself to do much more than 1200 words a day of work like this is a recipe for frustration and failure.
  4. This is my way for accounting for Thanksgiving. After years of my husband and I taking turns having jobs that required near constant attention, we’ve established boundaries to protect our marriage. One of them is that neither of us works past 8PM or on weekends, unless it’s a dire emergency.*

Book Notes -> (My) Book Notes

    The Kitchen Table (a.k.a. My Other Desk)

    This week and over the month of November, I’m putting my regular Wednesday Book Notes on hold.

    Instead, I’ll be writing Book Notes on my book, and you’re all invited to look over my shoulder while I work on The Dream Life of Toby McClure.

     Are you a writer doing NaNoWriMo?

    If I can find enough bloggers who are writing about their journey with NaNoWriMo this month, I’ll do a special Weekend Reads series during November tracking their progress.

    Are you a writer planning to blog about NaNoWriMo? If so, let me know in the comments. 

    *That sounds like a potential blog post. What do you think? Would a post about balancing writing and a relationship be interesting?

    EDITED: Math and calendar errors.