110: NaNoWriMo

110: NaNoWriMo

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I think most of you know that I’m a writer. Like, not just a gal who writes blog posts, but a real live fiction author (under a pen name) as well.

So, today we’re talking about NaNoWrimo (Nano…what?), why writer-type-folk should consider taking part in it this November, and—for you non-writers—lessons I’ve learned from my participation in NaNoWriMo that absolutely and totally apply to other areas of life.

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What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo started in 1999, and stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s basically a ginormous annual challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.

Fifty thousand words, you guys.

Thirty days, you guys. 

Who takes part in stuff like this?

Crazy people, obviously.

Crazy people like me. I take part in it. I even get excited for it, like Christmas y’all.

NaNoWriMo has grown into a year round website that helps you track your words, provides pep talks from well known authors, and gives you a place to talk to other people who are taking the same crazy challenge as you. (Like 455,080 authors that participated in 2019. Wut??)

NaNoWriMo is now a non-profit, and their programs support writing fluency and education. Their programs now include National Novel Writing Month in November, Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, the Young Writers Program, Come Write In, and the “Now What?” Months in January and February.

And it’s not just a crazy challenge or a cutesy project. Some big names and big books started as NaNoWriMo projects. Books like Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, Wool, Fangirl, The Darwin Elevator, and Cinder. 

How much is 50,000 words?

So, 50k words in a month. Wut? Those of you who aren’t writers probably can’t wrap your head around word counts because you’re used to counting pages. Traditionally (you know, back when I was in college and books were printed on paper) we were told to figure 250ish words to a page. With that line of thinking, a 50k manuscript will net you a 200 word novel.

**But with new formatting and ebooks and all those things, the concept of “pages” has kind of changed.

But why? Why would you even try write 50,000 words in a month?

To see if you can.

Back in 2013, I heard about this super cool thing—NaNoWri…something. I had yet another story idea in me and was looking for a kick in the pants. I thought 50k words? whatever. No way. But I have this story idea in me, so why not?

And I did it. I looked down towards the end of the month and saw I had passed 50k words and I cried.

I had actually done it.

This will be my 4th year doing Nano. Early in my fiction writing career (pre-2013) I wrote romantic comedies. But then I got comfortable enough to write the kind of stuff I really wanted to write—psychological thriller, mystery, dark fiction type stuff. So that’s what I write now.

My first NaNoWriMo project, The Me You See, was published in 2014.

My second, The Visit,  I didn’t finish, but it’s on the list to go back to.

My third, Opposite of Gray, is currently being edited.

My 4th (2020!) will be a novel called Snap about current events and human nature as told through the eyes of four people in a small town.

Things I’ve Learned From NaNoWriMo

Pre-NanoWriMo, I had it in my head that the first draft of a book took at least a year to write. We needed time to think and consider and mull over and wait for the muse to show up.

Nano was absolutely THE thing that taught me I can write 50k words in a month. Nano taught me that I can complete that goal by averaging 1667 words a day. Some days I wrote less, some days I wrote way more. I learned that if I apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and get rid of the distractions, I can actually write 1200-1500 words an hour. (Can someone go back and explain that to College Amy?)

The point is that 50k words seems huge and impossible. 1667 words does not. But that leads in to one of the first of four things Nano has taught me that I have applied to a gazillion other things.

NUMBER 1: Big goals have to be broken up into smaller ones.

You don’t wake up one day and have a 50k word book. You don’t wake up one day and have 10k dollars saved. You don’t wake up one day and you’re suddenly married 20 years. You don’t wake up one day 30 pounds lighter.

Money is saved (or lost) little by little. Weight is lost (or gained) little by little. It’s so important that we teach this to others—and remember it ourselves.

The little steps make up the long journey that gets you to the place you want to be. And there is no way around that.

NUMBER 2: Just do it.

A lot of people consider doing NaNoWriMo but get caught up in but what if my story sucks?

Y’all, it probably will. All of mine did, too. It’s 50,000 words in 30 days for the first draft. It is intended to be a dump of words. You write with the knowledge that it will need heavy editing, and that should ALWAYS be your understanding of a first draft, Nano or not. The important part is to get the words out. Do not go back and spend six days fixing chapter 1. Just move on to chapter 2 and 3 and 4. Just get the words out.

Other people who want to do NaNo get caught up in but what if I don’t finish?

Y’all. They’re not going to take away your birthday. And if you don’t make it to 50k, you’ve got 200 or 10,000 or 14,657 words that you didn’t have at the beginning of the month.

Sometimes we are so concerned with what it is going to look like or that we will do it wrong or that we will fail that we don’t end up ever doing the thing at all.

Let me tell you a secret. 9 times out of ten, the people who have pestered me the most about something I’ve tried to do are the people who are sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. 

Let that sink in.

Check out episode 284 of Living Free in Tennessee: Be Brave, but Be Smart, where Nicole Sauce and I talked about the importance of stepping out and doing those things that you want to do. Take a chance. Just do it!

NUMBER 3: Know how to deal with things that come up.

In any goal, you have to be able to deal with issues that come up on your way to that goal.

In the writing world, I’m a known as a panster, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Some people (planners) have elaborate storylines and character sketches and beats planned out before they even start. I don’t do that. My story just comes to me as I write. So, planning out the story isn’t the thing that helps me successfully finish Nano.

What helps me be successful in my goal is knowing I can deal with issues that come up along the way to 50k words. It’s that you know you can still finish when you get sick or your computer dies or your kids need help with that huge project or butcher day gets moved or any number of things that come up from November 1st to November 30th.

That’s how life works in Nano and outside of Nano. And that’s how goals are reached. It’s knowing how to deal with the stuff that happens in addition to what you had planned to get done.


I write year round. I have multiple storylines going in my head all the time, and manuscripts in various stages in my computer. So I don’t “need” Nano to finish a book. At this point, what draws me to Nano is the community that surrounds it.

Usually with Nano there are a lot of in-person meet ups during the month of November, but those have moved to virtual for this year. The thing I really like is there is a forum (old school) you can get involved in and there are ALL sorts of folks on there—all ages, all walks of life, all experience levels, writing in all different genres. If you are a writer, you can find your people somewhere there.

We need community. We need the support and encouragement from others. We need people to push us to be better. We need people we can go to who understand our life or what we are trying to do and that’s the same whether you’re a writer a homesteader a firefighter a business owner a college student. We can’t exist in a vacuum of ourselves. We need other people for the journey.

So…what if someone wants to do NaNoWriMo?

If you have ever, ever, ever thought you have a book in you…

If you’ve ever thought I want to write my life story

or I want to write that novel that’s been floating around in my head

or I want to write about things I’ve learned as a homesteader

or I want to write a how to book about backyard chickens

NaNo could be your thing. Why not? I mean…it’s 2020! 😉

**While most people write fiction, there are rebels that work on non-fiction, or poetry, or old projects. There’s actually a specific place for rebels on the Nano forum! They just count the words they wrote/worked on during the month of November. The important thing is that you have a passion to tell some story or convey some information and you commit to writing the words.

If you’re interested in doing NaNoWriMo this year, email me at [email protected] and I can explain it further or answer any questions. I will even hold your hand a little bit if you need it.

Because writing is just that dang important to me.

If you are already involved in NaNoWriMo, I’m on the website/forum as SRStevens. 

Write on, my farmish friends!

Bookmark ITTY BITTY THOUGHTS and come back to check out what I post tomorrow! I’d love your thoughts on today’s post in a comment below or via email at [email protected].

LINKS (from episode)/RESOURCES:

Two Truths and a Lie

Amy’s fiction author site: https://amydingmann.com/shay-ray-stevens/

NaNoWriMo main site: https://nanowrimo.org/

Daily posts here at the website: https://afarmishkindoflife.com/category/itty-bitty-thoughts

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Let's talk about one of my favorite things in the world -- NaNoWrimo! -- and how you can learn something from it, even if you're not a writer.

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