Have you tried NaNoWriMo?

My guest today is writer, Julie Newman. She did NaNoWriMo last year  and she’s come into the House of Dreams to tell us all about it. 

Julie Newman reading at the Vital Spark in Liskeard
Julie Newman reading at the Vital Spark in Liskeard

The NaNoWriMo experience, by Julie Newman

On a late October afternoon at The Writers and Illustrators group in Liskeard, we all decided to have a go at the National Novel Writing Month in November. We all signed up and became ‘writing buddies’ on the NaNoWriMo website, hoping that by watching one another’s progress and competing, it would make us write. And write we did! Even the members who are usually reluctant to write regularly achieved much more by joining in.

As for myself, I didn’t expect it to take over my life. To start with I only had a rough plot outline of a fragmented family. I didn’t have the time to do any research so I used the old adage – ‘write what you know’ – so some of the plot came from my family history. We had the whole of November to complete a novel of 50,000 words. This meant on average writing 1700 words a day. Some days I wrote more than this, sometimes less, but I completed it in 27 days and although I felt as if I was chained to the computer most of the time, what came out of it was amazing. My characters blossomed and told me what they wanted to happen. I lived and breathed the novel. Everywhere I went I took my note book; I even went to bed with it and wrote down the ideas as they came to me and the same when I woke up in the morning. Fortunately my husband was understanding and encouraged me to stick with it!

When I finished I had an amazing sense of achievement; even more so when I read the novel through from beginning to end. It was as though the story had written itself, somewhere in my subconscious, but I didn’t expect it to be so rounded. There seems to be something very honest about writing like this.

I think what I gained from NaNoWriMo is to know that I can write without editing as I go, and to leave my inner critic at the door. But in the process I lost most of November living in another world.

On the website, one of the perks for the ‘winners’ is a hard cover book of our novel, and even though it’s only a first draft in a plain blue cover, it’s wonderful to be able to hold it in my hand.

As for doing it again, I think I would try and plan it better prior to November 1st so I didn’t have to spend so much time at the computer!


Julie Newman has had seven magazine articles published, the first of which, ‘A Day Trip to Ely’ was sparked by a non-fiction exercise in one of my workshops. You can read her article ‘Bodmin Moor’on the Cornwall Life website and her story, ‘Open all hours’ here.
Julie’s other published work includes short stories in The Caradon Writers’ anthologies – ‘Mining For Words’ and ‘Write To Remember.’ She’s currently working on a memoir called ‘No One Comes Close.’

6 thoughts on “Have you tried NaNoWriMo?”

  1. I’ve never done Nanowrimo, though I’ve heard good things about it. I do recognise the feeling, very well, that the novel had already written itself ‘somewhere in my subsconscious.’ I’ve always felt that. The difficulty is not so much in writing the book, as in reaching the place where it already exists.

    I exchange emails with a group of friends, where we do ‘Linowrimo’ – we agree to write so many words a day, and have to report in on our success or failure. It’s very effective. And I recently did a ‘pubowrimo’ which took place, as you probably guess, in a pub. (I report on it on my Nennius blog on Saturday.)

    I think all these methods work by issuing a command that overrides all our usual prevarication, fears and doubts. ‘You Will Write!’ – And if you don’t, you let down your friends. So you make a start, even if with gritted teeth – and that start taps into the place where the story already exists, and out the words pour.

    1. I think the story is partially formed as well Sue, and that we just have to find our own way of allowing it to emerge and working with it, but I’ve never done anything like NaNoWriMo or the intriguing alternatives you’ve tried because I’m allergic to the idea of counting words. I’ll look forward to calling by the Nennius blog in a few days to read more about it 🙂

    2. Your alteratives to NaNoWroMo sound really good, Sue. I think anything group orientated make you write: Workshops,Groups etc. I have even tried writing chain stories with a group of friends and that’s fun.

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