Putting the ‘no’ in NaNoWriMo

I still remember when I told my family about my goal to write a novel in a month. I had hopes and dreams of creativity-filled, brandy-sipping evenings when I would type out a loose but complete 50,000-word novel in only 30 days.

That was in September. Before I was laid off from my job. Before I decided to move. Before I found out I would have family staying with me for a week during Thanksgiving. Before I realized that writing 1,600 words every day for 30 days is not as easy as it sounds.

Each November is recognized as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Each year, impetuous writers sign up at www.nanowrimo.org and fill their heads with the idea that writing 50,000 words in just one month is actually possible.

After I signed my soul away, I figured out that I would only need to write 1,667 words per day to accomplish my goal. That's nothing. I regularly write that much in one day—often more. I thought I'd be able to breeze through it. After all, I am a professional writer.

What I didn't figure is how difficult it is to sit down in front of a computer when I'm not actually working. After spending eight hours typing away for my job, the last thing I wanted to do was to keep typing.

I was also tremendously overworked in the month leading up to NaNoWriMo. The most time-consuming part was that I'd just moved. So, starting on November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo, I was trying to unpack my entire life.

I know. Excuses, excuses.

By the first Sunday in November, I still hadn't written a single word. That easy, breezy 1,667 daily goal had just shot up to 1,924 words. I knew I had made a mistake.

I managed to eke out about 5,000 words before I finally gave up about a week before Thanksgiving, and I haven't even looked at the file since then.

Last year, nearly 37,000 writers—out of more than 250,000 participants—actually reached their goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. That is a success rate of less than 7 percent.

Does that make me feel better for my failure? Not in the slightest. I wanted to be one of the 6.8 percent who did write a novel in one month. I thought I had some kind of superpower that would let me easily fill 175 pages with clever and interesting anecdotes.

I may have failed at my first attempt, but it's given me incentive to try again next year. Next time, I'll be sure to tell my friends and family that I am off-limits for 30 days. I won't move at the last minute or go out of town without bringing my laptop. I can't tell my family to stay somewhere else, but I can tell them to give me a few hours alone with my thoughts.

In the meantime, maybe I'll try to finish that novel I started. Maybe it will take me longer than a month to finish it, but 5,000 words is a good start.