A special NaNoWriMo bonus episode in which I talk about my ten year streak participating (and winning) National Novel Writing Month, the pros and cons, how it ties in with what I teach, a little pep talk, and more!
Transcripts are created by Descript. Please forgive any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors!
Hey Toucan, welcome to a very special bonus episode of the You Can Toucan Podcast all about National novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. That’s how I’ll be referring to it through this whole. So NaNoWriMo, it is. Now, if you don’t know what, what NaNoWriMo is, it is an international challenge of sorts in which people, writers, authors are challenged to write 50,000 words between the first and 30th of November.
Well, today is the day my friend. Today is the day we get to sit down and write our little hearts out or our little buns off from now until the last day of November, and I couldn’t be more excited as a NaNoWriMo quote unquote veteran of sorts. I thought I would pop into your ears today to talk about NaNoWriMo.
Specifically my history with it, what I’ve learned from it, some pros and cons, and how to keep going after November 30th comes to a close. Because let me tell you, the work doesn’t stop on November 30th. No, no, my friend. It continues on until your book is out into the world. So let me just tell you a little bit about my history of participating in NaNoWriMo.
I started in 2004 and I was determined to participate. In NaNoWriMo for 10 years straight, and I was determined, my friend, to complete the challenge for those 10 years. And you know what? I did it. So let me just give you a little history of what I wrote during those times. In 2004, I wrote my very first.
Actually, I think it was like my second or third novel length manuscript and it was called Bear in a Trench Coat and Fedora. And don’t you worry, someday I do plan to rewrite and produce that book because I just love that book. It has fair godmothers and fathers and fairy God people that take shape as animals that their people adore, like bears and lions.
Tigers. Oh my. Anyway, then I wrote, um, in 2005, I wrote a horribly written space adventure, part two, and then in 2006 I wrote part three. You may recall from a previous podcast episode that I wrote, a horribly written space adventure part one for the Elron Hubbard anthology contests. So I used NaNoWriMo to write part two and three.
It was just so much fun. I, I used for those years I used NaNoWriMo to just have fun, to let go, to let loose, to shake off some dust and cobwebs, and just write something that had little to no stakes. Then in 2006, I set out to write my very first zombie novel outbreak at Area X. It takes place in a little town in Colorado called Platteville.
It’s a real town. I fictionalized it a little bit for the sake of the book, and it was a lot of fun. I had fun with that. That’s another book I planned to go back to and rewrite and edit and produce someday. So many books, so little time right? Then in 2008, I wrote the very first version of what the Blood of seven came to be, and it was so different than what I ended up publishing in 2019.
That I could seriously rewrite that version of it and produce it as a completely different book. Then in 2009 I did kind of this assortment conglomeration of different stories that one’s called the FD Up Goat Story and it is pretty FD Up. And then 2010 and 11, I worked on a vampire book 2012. I wrote a book called The Door, which is another one that I wanna go back to cuz it scares the pants off of me.
2013, the final of the 10 year streak, I wrote a robot apocalypse story called Radioactive that the Imagine Dragons song “Radioactive” kind of inspired. So that one was a lot of fun too, and I do plan to go back to that one as well. Then I took a hiatus. Okay. 10 years, I’m gonna retire from this NaNoWriMo stuff.
But you know what happened year after year? I signed up between 2013 and 2020, I kept signing up for the challenge and I would write a little bit. I didn’t finish the 50,000 words for those years because I was just in it for the community. And we’ll get to that in a minute. But then in 2020, I wanted to.
The sequel to the Blood of Seven, The Gorging of Souls. And so I sat down and I know that my first drafts are pretty beefy and meaty. They’re like over a hundred thousand words. Fear not. I did not strive to do a hundred thousand words that November, though in past years I had done double the competition, but that was in a different time, in a different lifetime almost.
I had not as many life responsibilities, I guess I was in my early twenties, early to mid twenties when I did those past ones. So knowing that the Gorging of Souls was probably gonna be over a hundred thousand words I set out in November, 2020 to only write the first half of that book, and I did it, I wrote my little butt off, made it to 50 K, and then I kept going.
So we’ll get to the keep going part in a little bit. So here’s what I learned from doing NaNoWriMo for 10 years in a row, okay? I learned how to write a lot of words really fast without necessarily caring if they were all good words. The good thing about that is when you write really fast like this, your inner critic, which is the loudest of the negative self-talk voices in your head, has a really hard time keeping up with you.
It also stops you having to write by, you know, flying your fingers across your keyboard or scribbling across your notebook or chiseling away at your stone tablet. It also teaches you to not edit as you write. It teaches you forward progress, always. NaNoWriMo also taught me how to write beyond a 10,000 word short story or even a 5,000 word short story.
It helped me go from writing short stories to longer works of fiction, and that was important for me as an author because I wanted to write novels. It also gave me permission to write how I like to write, which is by the seat of my pants, which means I don’t outline or plot. I basically tell myself the story as I write it.
Now, earlier I talked a little bit about the community of NaNoWriMo. There is a huge community of people out there, and as an author, as a writer, Who works in a silo alone a lot. Having a community is so important. Plus, it gives you the accountability and the push to write the book that you’ve always wanted to write, or at least to start writing the book that you’ve always wanted to write.
NaNoWriMo was also a great jumping off point. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, but you didn’t know how to start. Just start, right, And then it’s the kick in the pants to get going and to keep going because there’s that challenge of writing the 50,000 words in the month of November, and it’s just so much.
If you sign up, if you haven’t already, I, I highly recommend it just for the community and the accountability and the push and the fun alone, whether or not you make it to the end. NaNoWriMo is a really great way to pound out the first 10, 20, 15,000, 50,000, whatever words of your book, however, The reason why I had all those numbers in there instead of just 50 k is because you should not be discouraged if you don’t win the challenge by reaching 50 K because whether or not you do complete the whole challenge and get your little winner certificate and your goodies at the end, You are still a winner.
If you wrote a hundred words, you’re a winner. A thousand words winner, 10,000 words winner. You are a winner because you wrote, you worked on your book and you’re that many more words closer to the end. Now, the main pro for NaNoWriMo is that it helps create a riding habit, much like two Can 20 does. The con, however, on the other side of that coin is it isn’t actually, or usually sustainable.
The daily word count for NaNoWriMo is 1,667 words per day. In my opinion, that daily word count is much too high for a lot of people, especially us busy writers, right? I mean, if all we have in our day is 20 minutes, we can’t pound out 1,667 words per minute. Maybe if you dictate or if you write, I don’t know.
I don’t even know how many words per minute that would have to be, I’ll have to calculate it, but it would be a lot. And I type 90 words per minute, and usually in a 20, like my best 20 minute, uh, two can 20 session, I probably did a hair over a thousand words if that. So when you set out to do your daily writing and you don’t hit that goal, It tends to lead to bad feelings that you can’t keep up.
And then you wonder, why did I even do this? Why? Why did I even start this in the first place? So let me, Let me talk a little bit about the Gorging of Souls, which is the sequel, like I said, to The Blood of Seven, my first published novel. As I said back in 2020, I used November and National Novel Writing Month to write the first 50,000 words of that book, and at the end of November I kept going.
I needed to write the second half of the book. The thing, one of the things I love about. NaNoWriMo is your writer dashboard. It has the coolest little charts and graphs that to show you your progress and everything. Your daily progress, daily word counts. Your progress. If you were to write the 1,667 words per day, how you’re matching up to that, et cetera.
Well, after November, I didn’t have that tracking mechanism anymore, So what happened after November 30th was I created this awesome spreadsheet called the Deluxe Tracker that had the exact same, or replicas, I guess replica charts and graphs that that NaNoWriMo’s website had. and I kept going. I maintained the NaNoWriMo surge of word counts per day all the way through to the first of the year in 2021.
Let’s go back to that con, that it’s not sustainable. I was able to sustain that crazy word count for 62 days, but I burned. My friend, I burned out so bad that when I hit the end, I had a hard time even celebrating that I hit the end. And celebrations are important. When you’re writing, you should always celebrate your small victories.
This was a major victory and I was so tired of writing every day that many words, every day, I should say, that I didn’t even feel like I had completed. Anything. I just, it, I wasn’t even relieved. It was almost like, okay, I did that and I’m done. And yeah, I did pop some bubbly. My husband is a wine expert and he had a nice champagne that we cracked open and, and drank, and it was awesome.
But on the inside I was not celebrating anything. So if you wanna keep going after November 30th, and I know I’m kind of jumping in the gun here by talking about November 30th, when it’s the 1st of November, I do have the deluxe tracker for sale, and I will give you a coupon. I will put it in the show notes.
It’s a really cool tracker. It has the same daily word count and progress trackers that the nano. NaNoWriMo website has, it has some calculators, is basically five tools in one. So if you found this podcast through the Quick Start Guide to writing more and less time, you’ll already know about the deluxe tracker because it came with a 35% off coupon.
But if you didn’t get the Quick Start Guide to writing more and less time, first of all, you really should . Secondly, I have a coupon code just for you, my listener, out there in the world. If you. Go to the link in the show notes to check out the deluxe tracker and use coupon code listener. You will also get 35% off.
I will definitely put a link in the show notes with the coupon. So go and snag that cuz it’s pretty cool. There’s a video of what all is included. You can see how to use it. It comes with some other stuff too. So go check that out. And remember my. It’s never too late to get started. Whether you listen to this episode on the 1st of November, the 15th of November, the 30th of November, or a different month, completely start now and I’ll leave you with this quote from author Denise Brennan-Nelson.
“Someday is not a day of the week.”
Set your timer. Go write.
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
Youcan the Toucan