Going Through the Nine Stages of NaNoWriMo

Posted by Basia Padlo

If you did NaNoWriMo this year (like me), you likely noticed a pattern among all of your friends who were also doing NaNoWriMo. There's a certain way things tend to go. If you didn't try NaNoWriMo this year but think you'd like to give it a spin next year, you should be warned. It's fun but exhausting, so here are the steps you have to look forward to in the pursuit of writing an entire novel in one month.

Excited Planning
You’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo. Whether you’ve been planning since September or you decided to do it on a whim on October 31st, you’re pumped. You sit down to at least get a rough idea of the novel you will write. Maybe you outline it. Maybe you’re just doing it all in your head. Either way, you’re doing NaNoWriMo!

Word Count, Shmurd Count
You have to average 1,600 words a day? Psh, no problem. Your first week is smooth sailing. You sit down every morning/afternoon/evening, and you’re the embodiment of that Jim Carey gif. You are a master writer.

Wait, What? No, Wait, I Got This
Your novel has suddenly taken a turn you didn’t expect. You spend a few seconds (read: at least an hour) staring at the cursor and wondering where it deviated from your outline. Should you fix it? You go get some tea. When you come back, you realize that this new turn is actually better than the direction the novel was going in the first place. You give yourself a mental high-five and keep writing.

…I Don’t Got This.
You’re at 20k, and even though that change seemed like a really good idea 10k ago, now you’re not so sure. You have no idea what to do now. You lie on the floor for a while. Is it too late to go back and steer the novel back to your outline? Yes, it is. You lie on the floor some more.

Just Make Word Count
It’s the middle of the month, and you’re hitting a snag. You feel especially morose, considering one of your friends has already reached 50k. You stare at her word count in your friends list and silently hate her but also wish she could pass on her secret, because you’re still stuck. Getting to your daily word count is like pulling teeth. You write every single detail of the setting of your scene, including three sentences about the way that one leaf shakes in the wind. It’s poetic, and it’s torture.

Everything Is Dialogue
You can just fill in the rest of the action later, right?

This Is Terrible
You recognize that none of the last five chapters you’ve written are going to make it into the final draft, but it’s too late to turn back and delete them all now. The idea of a negative sign on the word count meter turns your stomach. You tell yourself that at least writing them has given you a better idea of your characters.

So Close, And Yet So Far
Somehow, you’ve made it to 35k. You’re only 15k away from winning. You’re so close that you can practically taste it. You have no idea how you’re going to get there, but you tell yourself there’s no turning back now. You’ve already made it this far.

You’ve done it. You’ve made it to 50k. Maybe you’ve even surpassed 50k. You’ve finished your novel. So what if you’re exhausted and sweating and you’re pretty sure you wrote “Netflix” and “Instagram” in your novel about medieval wizards? You can finally sleep.

Except, of course, now it’s time to revise.