Classic Symptoms of a NaNoWriMo Participant

It’s that time of year again…when writers all across the world take a stab at knocking out 50,000 words in thirty days. That amounts to 1,667 a day, every day, for an entire month. No simple feat. So needless to say, us writers get a little bit wonky during these hectic days of November. Expect to see a few of these symptoms, or maybe them all, as we tackle a contest no one, anywhere, should ever attempt. Ever. Unless you’re fine with losing your sanity, one word at a time.

1. It Begins…Uncontrollable Urge to Announce NaNoWriMo Intentions to the World!


You rally the troops for your NaNoWriMo support group, stock up on wine and thin mints, prepare the coffee maker for those late night sessions you know are coming. But most of all, you’re pumped to get started and may have already snuck in a few words just to get the creative juices flowing. So slap that announcement on Facebook and let the world know just how big of a lunatic you are for actually trying this insane competition!

2. First Day Jitters…Oh God, Where Do I Start?


Some of us prepare outlines. Maybe you’re not one of those people. In fact, even if you have an outline, the task of beginning a novel can be unbelievably daunting. The hook must be epic. The word usage prolific. We refuse to put out crap in this early stage…no, it must all be perfect. Until it takes us two hours to tap out twenty words and we realize we’re never going to meet the word count goal at this pace. Speed it up, darlings!

3. Nesting…Struggling To Create The Perfect Writing Environment


Soft music playing in the background. Glass of Cabernet at the ready. Wifi turned off to prevent distractions. Cell phone on silent. Let the writing begin! At least, until we hit a speed bump and need to turn the internet back on to check the definition of a word or the typical Spring weather in our story’s setting. Then our eyes tragically drift to the notifications on Facebook out of habit, and suddenly another hour is lost to the distraction-gods. C’est la vie.

4. Grouping…Pass the Wine and Distract Me From My Torment, Please


A common NaNoWriMo practice. Write in groups! Surely the words will simply pour out of us if we’re all hanging out together, hammering away at our keyboards. I mean, who doesn’t write their best work when surrounded by other struggling writers, all juiced up on alcohol or caffeine with their noses pressed against their computer screens. Just don’t let them hear you stop typing. It’s like a yawn. It’s contagious. Suddenly everyone stalls and makes up for the awkward silence with jokes about how hard writing is and then you’re all saying eff-it and breaking out more wine. But hey, now it’s a party! Woot!

5. Inevitable First Crisis…Miss a Couple of Days, Realize You’re 4,500 Words Behind, and Throw Up Your Hands in Defeat


That’s the name of the game, folks. You get behind even just a little bit and the next thing you know you have to type 8,000 words a day or you won’t finish on time. At that point it’s like, well, I did my best. I gave it the old college try. Now just give me the champagne I thought I’d be toasting with at the end of this thing and leave me alone to cry in the corner!

6. Substance Abuse…Pick Your Poison, Caffeine or Alcohol? Or Both?


In order to accomplish a crazy task like writing 50,000 words in one month, sacrifices must be made. Surely your liver and heart are willing to take the fall. Just pump ’em full of liquid gold (whichever brand you like) and acknowledge that you’re a writer and a writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do! Even if it means heart palpitations and hangovers. Suck it up, man!

7. Visual Memorization of Every Dust and Food Particle on the Keyboard…Because Writing is Hard


If you’ve ever just sat there, staring blankly at your fingers poised over the keyboard, pleading desperately for words to come, you may be a writer. Your mind keeps fumbling for that perfect sentence, that next transition, that oh-so-awesome piece of dialogue that would so wow the reader. It’ll come eventually. But you may chew off all your fingernails and/or drink yourself to sleep first.

8. Wandering Mind…Ooh, Facebook!


How dare they invent the perfect distraction device. Us modern writers ache for the long lost days of writing by hand on a little piece of paper with no internet to take our minds off task. Oh, how wonderful it must have been. But then again, what would we do without Google Earth to check out the faraway places we’re writing about, or for those pesky words we simply must include in our story? How would we nail all the little historical and factual details in our book without the help of Wikipedia? Alas, it’s a losing fight. Might as well give in and check Facebook and eMail routinely to satisfy the urge, then get back to writing.

9. Complete Abandonment of Anything Not Related to NaNoWriMo…What Do You Mean the Cat Needs to be Fed?


For the month leading up to November up until the very last day of NaNoWriMo, pretty much all we can think about is our book. What our characters will do, who they will be, how they’ll suffer, or love, or fail, or win…in essence, our lives revolve around writing, even more so than usual. We’ll bore our family and non-writer friends to death with random tangents about what our heroine will do when she first meets the hero. Or how the baddie will be taken down at the end, or if maybe it’d be more shocking if he won. These little details matter, but then again, the life we led before NaNoWriMo does too. Just don’t forget to feed the cat.

10. Fearfully Read Over What’s Been Written…And Cry


A force of habit. We backtrack, a bit scared to see what the hell we typed at midnight the night before while mentally incapacitated. Sometimes it’s actually not half bad. Other times it’s wretched. Well, the best you can do is ignore it for now and keep pushing. You have a word count goal to meet and can’t waste time editing yesterday’s words!

11. Threaten Publicly To Quit…I CAN’T WRITE. I SUCK.


This happens more often than you’d think. To everyone. Literally, everyone. And at no time are we more self-aware of our self-doubt than when we’re competing with millions of other writers who keep gleefully posting about their insane word counts and all we want to do is shove our heads in a blender and never write again. If my brain won’t work to put words down on the page then there’s just no use in having one. Damnit.

12. Muster Strength to Keep Writing…While Guzzling Lots of Wine and Saying Eff-You to Word Counts


So everyone else is light years ahead of you on their word counts. Oh well, it happens. So write anyway. Maybe the goal won’t be met, maybe you’ll only get 20,000 of those 50,000 words down on the page, but hey, it’s a start and life is hard and writing is even harder. So grab the wine, relax, and settle in for a writing session minus all the pressure. Who knows, maybe you’ll catch up after all. Crazier stuff has happened!

13. End of Month Sprint of Sublime Panic…ALMOST DONE.


The end is nigh! I can see it! Just keep writing. Please brain, keep giving me some kind of words to type so I can finish on time. Forget Thanksgiving dinner, only a few thousand words to go! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING. IT JUST GOT REAL. Fingers don’t cramp on me now!

14. Throw Down Final Sentences of Pure Crap to Reach 50,000 Word Goal…Commence Ugly Sobbing


YES. So those last couple sentences are the worst string of words you’ve ever written, but hey, they’re on the page and they count and that’s all that freaking matters. 50,000 words is officially done. It’s over. *hiccuping sobs*

15. Feelings of Disbelief and Wonder…MORE BOOZE PLEASE THANK YOU


It’s like waking from a dream. Did I really just do that? Where am I? Who am I? A NaNoWriMo winner, that’s what you are! Now hit save and back up the file and put it away for a few days. You won’t want to look at the damage you’ve done until you’re sober enough to handle it. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll be written and a first draft is really just that, a first. Worry about second and third and fourth drafts later. For now, pass the booze and be merry!

16. Joyful Promises to Compete Again Next Year…Complete Amnesia to the Torment Just Suffered


Let the arrogance fill you. Pssh, NaNoWriMo. I’ve done that. No big deal. Shoot, it was easy. I’m totally doing it again next year. In fact, I may just make this a monthly habit. Knock out twelve books a year. What what! 😉

* * *

For all my fellow NaNoWriMos out there, keep on truckin’ and slapping down those words. We may not reach the goal, but this is our month to celebrate writing and unity within the writer community. So get to it, and make those words count! 🙂


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