My first experience of taking part in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) was back in 2012. I read about it in a magazine and decided to sign up. That November I wrote just over 50,000 words of my young adult novel, The Changeling. What I loved about Nanowrimo was that it allowed me freedom. I didn’t have to worry about writing ‘good’ words, I just had to get words, any words, down on the page. Nanowrimo sent my self-editing head away for a month as editing was not allowed; my goal always to move forward, never back. I attended a few ‘write-ins’ sitting with other participants in a café to write for an hour or so. We became writing buddys and this was a huge motivator. Whenever I saw their wordcount leaving me behind, I’d dash off a couple of thousand words to catch up.

If you’ve never done Nanowrimo, it’s a self-imposed challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. This works out at an average of 1667 per day and if you’re not worried about editing it’s possible to complete these words in an hour or so. You can even break the hour down into smaller chunks if you’re really busy. You enter your daily wordcount and it produces a lovely little graph charting your progress.

You don’t actually win much – you can download a winner’s certificate and there are some useful discounts for writing software – the real win is finishing November with 50,000 words of your next novel ‘in the bag’. Obviously, these words are only a starting point and will need to be culled and edited ferociously.

I soon became familiar with Nano specific terminology. Was I a plotter or a panster? (a plotter as it turned out – see my preparing for Nano article on FocusMe where I outline my process) When I write I do like to have an idea of where I’m going.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 I signed up again, completing 50k words of Pearl Seekers, Three Faced Doll and Prescient Spirit. I took a couple of years off when I was focusing on my MA in Creative Writing, but joined again in 2018 and 2019 to complete 50k of Smugglers and My Brothers Dominatrix.

This year I’m not taking part. For me Nano works best with an idea for a new novel and I currently have too many works in progress. I shall miss Nano but I must stay true to my target of getting my debut novel, The Travelling Philanthropist edited, formatted and out by the end of this year. Interestingly it’s the only one of my novels that didn’t start life as a Nano project.

I wish all my fellow writers every success in 2020. What better way to use lockdown than to write a novel? I’m envious as you and your book begin your adventure together. If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time.

For me there’s always another opportunity during Camp Nano in April 2021. Did I not mention Camp Nano?

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