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NaNoWriMo – Not Just for Aspiring Authors


By: Catherine Dilts

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is primarily touted as an exercise to drive aspiring authors to write 50,000 words. Hitting that goal may mean completion of a novel draft for the very first time. At the very least, NaNoWriMo inspires confidence that hitting The End is possible.

Image provided by NaNoWriMo

But what about the published author? Is there any value in leaping into the month-long torment for those who have achieved not only novel completion, but publication?

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time ten years ago. The experience was mind-blowing for the following reasons:

  1. Gravitas: People leave you alone when you tell them you’re part of an impressive international event.
  2. Competition: Applying butt to chair and fingers to keyboard is easier when you’re in friendly competition with yourself and others.
  3. Discipline: You learn the discipline required to finish a novel when pushing toward a goal that can only be achieved with consistent writing sessions as you strive to hit a daily or weekly word count.
  4. Realistic expectations: A first draft should be just that – a draft. The rougher, the better. NaNoWriMo pushes you to get the words down. Editing and refining take place later.
  5. Support and inspiration: Pep talks, local write-ins, on-line forums.
  6. FREE! 

2020 found many authors in the COVID doldrums. Fear was palpable. Lockdowns isolated us. Depression was rampant across all age groups. While some of us took solace in writing, for others focusing on fiction was impossible. Authors conquered the strange new world of on-line meetings, but let’s face it, a lot is lost in living a virtual life.

One definition of virtual by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition, is “Created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network.”

Enter 2021, with the promise of a return to normal that did not materialize. Still, some social activity opened up. If authors didn’t return to critique and writing groups in person, at least they were now comfortable with virtual meetings. Some of us flew out the door at the first opportunity to be around other humans, to go to restaurants, museums, and elderly care facilities to visit family members.

The past two years, I remained productive. I’m one of those people who throw themselves into work when times are tough. Then this summer, something happened. I gave myself permission to enjoy the nice weather. To attend sporting events in which my grandchildren participated. To take my elderly mother to lunch. Friends and family dropped in for weekend visits. We enjoyed evenings at outdoor concerts. Suddenly, the spreadsheet I use to track my writing hours looked very thin.

I need to get my head back into my writing routine. While some of my work is published through a small press with less time pressure, my other publisher has strict deadlines. Besides work under contract, there are four novels I’m itching to complete. I feel out of control. I miss structure.

Since my first foray into the crazy world of NaNo-ing, I created eight projects. Only three made the finish line. Eventually, three were published, but only one was a NaNo winner. With this abysmal NaNoWriMo track record, why am I considering participating this year?

Mind-blowing reason number one: People leave you alone when you tell them you’re part of an impressive international event.

Let’s break this down.

It’s easier to say no to time-sucking people and activities when you’re involved in a global project. Sacrifices must be made if you’re going to succeed. Meeting the brisk and brutal word count of NaNoWriMo requires trimming down on entertainment and social activities for the short space of one month.

At this point, I know I can reach The End of a novel. My goal for NaNoWriMo 2021 is to slam out a draft of one of my projects currently in a state of stagnation. In the process, I hope to jump-start my enthusiasm and motivation to stick to a productive writing routine.

You can find me on NaNoWriMo as Granny_queequeg

Catherine Dilts, Headshot

CATHERINE DILTS prefers writing cozy mysteries and short stories surrounded by flowers on her sunny deck, but any day – and anywhere – spent writing is a good day. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle Publications, Catherine also writes for Annie’s Publishing, contributing three books for the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library and two for the soon-to-be released Annie’s Museum Mysteries series. Her short story HazMat Holiday will appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in the January/February 2022 issue, which goes on sale 12/14/21.

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