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50k Words In One Month? My Experience Taking On NaNoWriMo

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

Since I was 7 years old and used to carry around a hardbound notebook with stories about magic, horses, and my best friends and me – I’ve been a die-hard fiction writer. As I grew older and entered fandom culture, fanfiction became a big part of my creative expression and reading life (I could defend the literary merit of fanfiction with a full PowerPoint and lecture, but that’s for another time). So becoming an author has been a lifelong dream of mine. 

This November, I’ve taken on a challenge that’s somewhat infamous for creative writers. If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and is hosted by a non-profit organization online. You sign up on their website and try to achieve one goal: write 50,000 words of a brand new original novel entirely in the 30 days of November. There are tons of merchandise you can gain if you succeed, and are dubbed a “winner” — as well as immense bragging rights of course.

Last year’s NaNoWriMo was my first time, and it was a game-changer for me. A novel idea that was my first original became a partially finished rough draft, and by this year, it’s a fully plotted work in progress, with 100 pages written in my Google Docs. I didn’t win, but the result was something I was super proud of.

So of course I had to come back this year, determined to win.

This year, I’m taking the rules a little more liberally. Instead of a brand new novel, I’m splitting up the work in between three different WIPs (works in progress, for the uninitiated), and splitting up the goal word count for each of these to total 50,000 words. By the time I’m writing this article, it’s November 17th, so how have I been doing?

Besides days off for sickness, a laptop mishap (which I’m still distraught over), and family in town, I’ve been successful at keeping up a daily writing habit. I’ve written almost 20,000 words in a month and all of them have been working towards these 3 projects (which if you know me and my brain’s inability to not come up with ideas I’m obsessed with, is a big success)!

So for those aspiring writers who are also taking on the challenge, here are some of the biggest tips I have for surviving NaNoWriMo:

  1. Work with what you’ve got.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to planning (seriously… you should see my Notion). So a couple of times while writing this month, I have gotten lost in my head. What if the direction I’m taking the story isn’t right? What if there’s a glaring plot hole I’m building that I just haven’t seen yet because I started writing too quickly?

If you take a step back to breathe and just write what you think goes next, usually it makes a lot more sense on the page than it did in your head. So don’t let the demons of insecurity get in your way, and tell your story!

  1. No matter what you do, do NOT edit (at least for now)!

I get it, editing the words that were just written is a habit or even a ritual for some writers. For me, editing my work is a rabbit hole; I just want to go back and check every chapter, and find the inconsistencies. If I get a new idea of how to convey a scene to fulfill its purpose better, it’s over for me.

But NaNoWriMo isn’t about that. One of my favorite sayings is that the first draft isn’t clarification for the reader – it’s clarification for the writer. Just get the words down for now! This month is a wild sprint for most writers, asking them to put down a lot more words than usual. Focus on that and anything else can be fixed later.

  1. It’s the journey, not the destination. 

Take it from someone who’s never won, but whose life has been changed because of this silly word count challenge. If you get the words down of the draft you’ve been dreaming of for years, you have more words than you started with. If you beat your own personal goals, then that’s so much more important than hitting a word count. The goal is ambitious because it’s something to be proud of and because it fosters a community as people take on the challenge together. But even if you don’t win, I guarantee you will get something out of it.

Those are all my tips! So to any other writers balancing college, work, or life while also trying to work on their own projects, I commend you, and good luck!

Raissa Cady is a writer and assistant editor for the Her Campus at Texas chapter based at UT Austin. In their second semester with the magazine, they love to write about media she's interested in, including television, film, music & pop culture events. She will also write about topics she is passionate about such as mental health & queer culture, and contribute the occasional personal essay. Beyond Her Campus, Raissa is a 3rd year psychology major with a creative writing certificate. They are the service director for Always Texas, a UT inclusive spirit group, a peer mentor for incoming freshmen, and a research assistant for Project SEED, which works with Mexican children who translate. She will be graduating in the spring and plans to go to graduate school for mental health counseling. In their free time, Raissa loves to spend time with their 3 dogs, go to aerial sling classes, and write fiction, especially her work in progress novels. She's an avid concert goer and weekend movie marathoner.