NaNoWriMo Diary, Part 1: A Bumpy Start

NaNoWriMo diary
Image by Matt Graves

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The event started in 1999 with a group of about 20 attempting to write a novel in just one month. By 2009, NaNoWriMo had almost 170,000 participants, about 32,000 of which accomplished the task of completing a 50,000-word novel by month’s end.

These days, the event is administered by The Office of Letters and Light, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit. The group, according to its Web site, “organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential.”

In the spirit of our “We Try it So You Don’t Have To” series, I’ve been attempting to participate this year, with rather frustrating results only a week in. My story should be at about 10,000 words and it’s clocking in at only slightly more than half that. It’s tempting to do one of two things at this point:

1) Quit.
2) Give in to the NaNoWriMo-endorsed philosophy of just getting words on paper, even if they aren’t what you like, and accomplishing the goal.

Neither of these seems very desirable.

The first 2,500 words were fairly smooth sailing; inspired writing that I didn’t even need to think about; rather, I just stepped out of the way and they landed on the page. Then I found my protagonist (not a heroine; she’s kind of a nasty character) in a weird pickle of being stuck in a place for which I had little frame of reference. And I didn’t want to just write bullsh*t. So I researched and researched . . . how would this actually work? Where would this item be stored; would this door be locked during off hours? Etcetera.

And three days later I’d barely written another paragraph. I eked out another 1,000 words by the end of week one; better than nothing, but still far behind. I started up again with a good showing yesterday, a couple thousand words in the bag, and now it’s time to keep the momentum going (doing this little NaNoWriMo diary aside).

Whether it ends up in the semi-public humiliation of utterly failing, the semi-victory of getting pretty close, or the actual thrilling accomplishment of completing a short novel, I want to document the experience here on Osmosis. Selfishly, it should light a fire under my butt. But maybe it can be somewhat compelling in a few ways, whether as a positive example, a negative example, or as a laugh at someone else’s expense.

It’s true that real life complicates things, both in the sense of available time and constant interruptions to your thought process. I haven’t written fiction in years, I have a fulltime job and freelance writing obligations on top of that, not to mention this very site. And two young kids, who always seem to have an appointment of some kind or manage to blow through two gallons of milk in record time, necessitating a quick Trader Joe’s run (so long, another 2,000 potential words…).

But my sense is this: if I can do it, then most anybody that has an idea and knows how to type can do it too.

Off to write. I’ll check in soon.

Check in on my pathetic progress here.

See what NaNoWriMo is all about — or even sign up yourself — here.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Want to share your own experience? Leave a comment below or email me at if you’d like to contribute an article about it.


2 comments for “NaNoWriMo Diary, Part 1: A Bumpy Start

  1. November 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I had always wondered if people did this on top of full time jobs, etcetera… so, thank you for your post which answered my questions in plethora. I can’t imagine cranking out 2000 words a day right now, but if I ever want to write a novel, I’d better figure out how. :o)

    Rhyme Me a Smile

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