November 1 came around. You started NanoWriMo like a champ. This time, your outline was ready. You wrote every day and the words flowed forth onto your screen until…you lost your sanity. Perfectly normal when trying to write at least 1,667 words per day for an entire month! 

You are not alone! You can survive NaNoWriMo and stay sane during November.

Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Let me explain. November isn’t just for turkey, canned cranberry sauce, and early Christmas music that drives you mad.

For passionate and driven writers, November is a special time of year. It’s a lot like a holiday–one that’s made especially for type-A, obsessive-compulsive writers. And like finding out it’s your turn to host dinner for twenty, Nano fills many with dread.

Short for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo’s tagline is “the world needs your novel.” Every November 1st through 30th, the non-profit’s mission is to help as many people as possible write a 50,000 word novel.

Yikes! That’s a lot of words and a lot of novel writing.

Does the world need all those novels? Probably not. Some criticize the event for its focus on quantity over quality.

Regardless, I think it’s a terrific cause. Intense writing gives many writers, me included, the kick in the pants we need. Whether you’re just starting a novel, or trying to finish one, there is a sense of community. That we’re not in this alone.

There are chances for writers to meet up. You can buddy up with other aspiring writers via the website. Introverted writers of the world–we can finally find our people!

So I tried Nano last year after ignoring it for years. I got excited last November and started writing. But life got busy and I only got 11K words in.

Even though I failed to meet the 50K word goal last year, I was glad I tried. The aspiring writer community understands. They struggle too, and nobody berates you or looks down on you if you can’t finish. No, they are too busy worrying about their own novels.

I learned a lot from Nano. To prepare, I read up on story structure and outlining. Then after jumping in and writing–I learned more how to write a novel than had I taken an expensive course.

This year, I rose up to meet the Nano challenge again. Armed with a fully developed outline this time, I resumed work on last year’s novel.

You learn a few tricks when you go through Nano once. Here are a few of my lessons learned. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll finish this year, so take it for what it’s worth.*

#1 Don’t take yourself too seriously. Nano is supposed to be fun and kind of reckless. If you go in expecting to end up with award-winning prose, well, just don’t. As Anne Lamott says, your first draft will be really shitty.

#2 You’re not alone in this. Find your tribe. It helps to have others who share your pain. Only fellow Nano writers understand how it feels when you get stuck on a scene or you miss a few days of writing. Your writer buddies know your journey. Two awesome Facebook groups to join are: Aspiring Authors and Ninja Writers.

#3 Be a writer with a plan. When I first started Nano, I had no idea that you should outline first. After a few days, when I had run out of steam, I understood. It’s acceptable and encouraged(!) to outline your novel in advance of Nano.

#4 Think of Nano as a journey. Once you get one year under your belt, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Do you write well every day and space out your word count by hitting 1,667 words a day? Or are you more of a binge writer who likes to crank out 10,000 words each weekend?

Consider Nano an experiment and yourself the hapless guinea pig. Will your kick-ass main character rescue you? Or will the ruthless evil villain reach you first and steal your word count?

On that note, I must get back to my Nano writing. Good luck!

*It’s November 16th and I’m at at 24,442 glorious words. I’m halfway there! Wooooooo hoooooooo!

I’m always looking for writer buddies. You can find me in Nano by searching for my writer name CBerns.