National Novel Writing Month: A Rookie’s Experience

Last month, fellow writer Sarah Foil introduced Salemite readers to something called National Novel Writing Month, more commonly recognized as NaNoWriMo. Participants were given all of November to write a 50,000 word story with no editing allowed. Not everyone’s end goal was 50,000 words, though.

As my first time participating in this epic challenge, I began writing from scratch, no idea what I was going to write, unlike veteran participants, who had their entire story planned out ahead of time and by the time November 1st rolled around, they already knew what they were going to write about. A rookie to the NaNoWriMo experience, I entered with one objective: write.

It’s easy to do so when you have an idea to guide you, but when you don’t, you turn to outside sources. For me, I turned to Spotify for inspirational playlists and to Twitter (@NaNoWordSprints) and Instagram (#WritersOfInstagram) for writing prompts and tips. After 30 days of late nights and pretty much inhaling caffeine, my word count totaled 17,000 words (50 pages, single spaced). And it’s not even close to being done.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It definitely was a challenge to get to 17,000 words, and not just finding time to write, but just trying to reach the daily goals. If you’re aiming for the 50k goal, which was my original intention, until I understood just how much time that consumes-and tells you that you need to write an average of 1,667 words a day for 30 days to reach it. Now, I knew two weeks in that I was not going to hit that goal, and I would be lucky to even hit the half-way mark at 25,000 words. I decided to just ignore the word count and just write. Next thing I know I had 10,000 words. Though a small amount of words in comparison to a J.K. Rowling novel, it meant that I was 1/5th of the way to the “winning” word count of 50k. Every sentence adds up, I learned. The paragraphs easily made pages and I was quickly looking at rough drafts of actual chapters. It’s an exhilarating feeling to know you’ve created something so monumental.

My NaNoWriMo story, (a fictional piece about two runaways in their late teens struggling to cope with very different recent losses in their lives while trying to survive on the streets), though very rough in its plot and character development, will face many alterations and additions to it before I’ll feel comfortable enough presenting it to anyone who isn’t my Google Doc. I found myself more concerned with getting my scenes written down rather than writing them in the ‘correct’ order for the overall story. That is what the editing process, or post-NaNoWriMo, is for. The important thing to remember is that your first draft of anything is never perfect.

NaNoWriMo was an experience that motivated my dusty writing muscles to get 17k words written while juggling school, homework, and friends. It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up and I’m looking forward to exceeding my 17,000 word count high score next NaNoWriMo.

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