Taking on NaNoWriMo

betty ming liu Inspiration 23 Comments

During November, I plan to write every day until I churn out 50,000 words. I will do it along with writers around the world who have set the same goal for themselves.

The official name for this month-long creativity marathon is National Novel Writing Month. Better known as NaNoWriMo, it was founded in 1999 by some would-be novelists from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Last year, organizers counted more than 300,000 global participants. While most were working on novels, the crowd included plenty of sceenwriters, non-fiction writers, all sorts of writers.

In 2011, I nervously took my first shot at NaNoWriMo. To get through the month, I drank a lot of rum while my ancient dog Rosebud slept by my feet. I blogged about it (see the photos! feel the excitement!) but didn’t produce a novel. Then the following year, Rosebud died of complications related to old age.

This November will be different.

I will miss the companionship of my beloved muttsky. Most likely, I’ll miss the rum too. (In case you’re wondering, I’ve stopped drinking in a bid to get fit, as in buns of steel.)

But instead of blabbing about how I want to write this or that like I did in the past, this time, I’m keeping my mouth shut.

For an excellent explanation of the silent strategy, check out Robert’s Rules Of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know.

Here’s how author Robert Masello explains Rule #4, which he calls “Zip the Lip:”

Professional  writers know that the more you talk about something you’re planning to write, the less likely it is that you’ll ever write it. A book is like a hydraulic engine, and the more you talk about it, the more you let out the power that’s needed to make the thing run. All the energy that should be going back into the book is squandered in talk and dissipated in the air.

That’s exactly what happened to me! After NaNoWriMo 2011, I didn’t have a novel, not even close. In 2012, I half-heartedly joined up again, to prove I wasn’t a loser. Then when superstorm Sandy threw the Northeast into chaos, I had a face-saving excuse to bail. By 2013, the idea of writing every day wasn’t on my radar.

As for this November? No guilt. No pressure. Instead, I’m making a commitment to nurturing myself. Who knows where it will go. Best to not talk about it.  :)

Of course, it’s totally possible to do the exact opposite of the silent approach. NaNoWriMo’s website offers writing forums, writing groups and helpful pep talks with experts. You can even post excerpts of your work, if you want.

This time though, I want intimacy. Small moments. Stillness.

Which leads to a question for you…

If you’re also game to do NaNoWriMo and want some company, let’s talk! Not about the actual content of our projects but about our process. What’s it feel like to write every day? That’s the discussion I want to have. It’s the conversation that would inspire me to celebrate.

During November, I’d be honored to upload a weekly NaNoWriMo blog post. It would be a place to check in for a chat and support. Any takers? If so, let me know. If not, wish me luck as I get quiet on my own. :)

Comments 23

  1. Hi, Betty
    I’m also going to spend November with the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words — to add to the 100 pages I’ve already written (it’s a sequel to my first novel, indie-published in 2012). I am spending the remaining days of October in preparation. For example, I’ve got a cork board (2’X3′) that I’m using to outline my story. I’m following Alexandra Sokoloff’s technique from her book (Screenwriting Tricks For Authors). I’m starting on Act 2 today, got my 3″X5″ note cards and my pushpins! Good luck to both of us, I say!!

    1. Post
  2. Hey Betty…..I did it last year and spent the polishing it up. Now I’ve just got to sell it and you know how that goes…..if I can’t do it traditional way, I plan to self publish.

    Anyway, I’m going to take it on again….


    1. Post
  3. oh nice! planning to do nano this year as well. I don’t know that you want my process though :D I have completed nano several times. Mostly what I have are several wondering meandering story drafts and not much finished…best of luck!

    1. Post

      Vanillabean, I still don’t think that finishing things should be the gold standard. I got so much from rambling through my personal crap. The layers have to come out of us before we can see what we really have. There’s good stuff under the veil. Good luck to you too! :)

  4. Hey Betty:

    Sounds like a worthwhile kick starter for writing a larger work, whether it be a novel or non-fiction memoir.

    The keeping it quiet to keep the energy is also food for thought. Sometimes talking about a project can generate interesting insights from others, but I also see what you mean about it sometimes dissipating your own energy to complete the work……

    1. Post

      Leslie, I’m not sure it’s even important to have a project in mind. I’ve talked to writers who have simply used the collective energy as a booster shot. We all need moral support!

  5. I think I will quietly approach Nano and make a sincere attempt at serious writing. Although, ideally, I would like to create a chapbook of poetry for entering a contest but also maybe a family short story for creative non-fiction. I’m not quite up to writing a novel yet until I get really serious about writing period. I go in spurts and then I get writer’s block sometimes as well. It should be interesting to set a goal for myself for November. Not sure I want to come up with 50,000 words but what the heck!

    1. Post

      Yay, Sandy! What counts is your willingness to consider the challenge. I’m making a HUGE effort to NOT get caught up in issues of completing the task, creating a marketable product, etc. NaNoWriMo is about the self. Words and self.

      And who says you can’t combine poetry with a family short story? :)

      1. Oh no, I meant writing poetry simultaneously while working on a short story. Both for future contests of course as well as catharsis. Gosh, I have enough trouble writing a short enough short story or composing a longer poem than one page. I want to enter a Chapbook of poetry contest for money and publication, lol. I can barely write one poem every six months. I have to be motivated by something I’ve seen or someone I’ve heard say something like the younger homeless guy years ago talking to the newspaper dispenser by the bus stop and I heard him mumble, “Someone Has Stolen My Mother.” That of course is going to be one of the titles I work with in the future. Who would a thunk…

        1. Post

          Oh, wow. Well, why not? If you ask me, all that really matters is that we’re opening ourselves up to possibilities. And the idea that someone has stolen my mother totally resonates with me. Another wow.

    1. Post
  6. Post

    Okay, my friends. I think we’re in business. I will have a Nano post for us every week during the month of November. My goal is to also keep doing “regular” stuff too, for those who aren’t really interested in Nano. Time to get busy on the blog again! xo

  7. i have one more idea….

    anyone want to join me as a writing buddy? my pen name is l.a. rose so look me up if you do and we’ll have more of a community. you too Betty! :)

    1. You mean I actually sign up with Naniwrimo to do my writing? I was just thinking of doing it on my own. Never had a writing buddy. What do they do with and for you and you for them?

    2. Post

      How does that work, Paul? Do you do that through the Nano website? I’m usually very big on the buddy system. Tried it once in a writing group. But that was ages ago.

      Sandy, I’m gonna sign up on the NaNoWriMo site, just to be counted as a participant. It’s free! And the website is interesting. Lots of activities to check out. The first year, I even made a small donation (but not required at all). These folks are doing good work — reaching out to kids, libraries, etc.

  8. Hi Betty,

    I hope it’s okay to mention that I’ve set up a free NaNoWriMo / AcWriMo Resource Center with info on how to overcome four common stumbling points:

    (a) Get off to a strong start,
    (b) Make it past the dreaded mid-month slump
    (c) Finish! And,
    (d) Have fun while doing it all!

    You can find the it here:

    Thanks and best of luck to you and other participants. I’m sorry you won’t have Rosebud by your side this time.

    Hillary Rettig
    Author, The 7 Secrets of the Prolific

    1. Post
  9. Pingback: Week 1: Starting that writing project with NaNoWriMo

  10. Hi Betty,
    Thanks for the challenge! I’ve thought about doing this a few times, but never tried. I think this is as good a year as any. I have lots to write about it and actually want to let the steam out there. Here’s to less talking or fantasizing about it…and to writing about it.
    Thanks again for the birthday wishes. This is my birthday gift to myself:-)

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *