The Life and Death of my 2018 Nanowrimo Novel

Dear Nanowrimo 2018,

I’m sorry, but it isn’t happening this year. For some reason, my last two Novembers weren’t busy at all. In 2016 it was the senioritis and existential dread of the presidental election that gave me the motivation to win. And in 2017, my unusually easy classes and lack of a social life allowed me to write a sequel. This year… I’m swamped with school, work, friends, and trying to carve out time for myself. My outline for Nano fell by the wayside. I think that’s a good thing. So here are my reasons to justify quitting Nano three days in:

  1. Instead of focusing on a single, all-consuming task, I’ve diversified. What I’ve improved at this semester:
  • drawing, thanks to my art class I realized I actually have some skill!
  • writing short stories, not novels
  • keeping a daily diary
  • making friends, going out with them, being a normal human being?
  • touch typing
  • holding a steady job and learning to save my money, banishing micro transactions to the abyss
  • procrastinating on writing stationery reviews, I’M SORRY OK

Yes, I wish I had time to write a full novel. But that means I would have to put aside my other commitments.

2. I don’t know if writing so rapidly actually produces quality work. It’s been two years since I wrote my first novel and it’s still a giant mess. The prose is choppy, there are gaping plotholes everywhere, and I made the big mistake of starting in the middle of the plot, getting to the end, then writing the beginning. DON’T DO THAT YOU WILL REGRET IT. I think my novel would have turned out better if I slowed down and concentrated on quality not quantity. Right now, the story is horrible and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. As a result, I might scrap or rewrite all 120,000 WORDS I wrote. That’s not going to be fun. O_O

3. I learned how to finish a novel. I proved myself, twice, that I can commit to writing at least 50,000 words. Before 2016, I never wrote more than 10,000 words. My stories fizzled out after a few pages. So I should be proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t need Nanowrimo anymore to inspire me to finish. And that’s the beauty of this hellish month-long torture exercise.

Goodbye, Nanowrimo. I’ve learned so much from you but now it’s time to put you aside. But I’ll always remember that sweet satisfaction of hitting my daily word count.


How to Win NaNoWriMo

So, I’ve been super busy with essays, tests and writing an 18-page story for creative writing class! But I wanted to talk about an event that’s very important to me, NaNoWriMo! In case you don’t know what it is, Nano stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s like a marathon for writers! During the month of November, thousands of people write about 1,667 words a day, for a total of 50,000 by the 30th. It seems like a lot, but it just requires perseverance and some free time in the day. Nano is also held during April and July, as Camp Nano. I was going to write a post at the beginning of April, but better late than never! April and July are never good times for me, because of midterms or summer vacation.

The original criteria were to complete a prose novel in a month. But now, short stories, poems, scripts and editing are allowed. Most people write on their computers or tablets, but I’ve heard of some brave souls who wrote their novels by hand! And it’s okay to not hit your goal! The only reward you get from Nano is a virtual badge and satisfaction.

I’ve completed Nano in November two times, in 2016 and 2017. I knew about the event for years before that, but each time I wrote a few hundred words then gave up. These are the tactics I used to hit 50k+ words:

1. Read many books!!!

This is a given if you want to write novels. I learned so much about constructing narratives, characters, and settings from reading. I haven’t had much time to read books lately, but I read lots of Longform articles on my phone when I have free time in between classes.

2. Write every day! (with fountain pens :D) 

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but fountain pens and good stationery really helped me increase my writing productivity. Before I came obsessed with these wonderful pens, I wrote stories with a smeary pencil in cheap spiral notebooks. My hand always cramped and hurt from the spiral binding. (left-hand problems) Some of my earliest notebooks are illegible because of graphite transferring to the opposite page and making a mess. I loved writing by hand anyways because I was a slow typer. But by high school, writing on paper didn’t bring me the same joy anymore. My writing was in a slump by then, as I struggled with loads of homework and didn’t feel inspired.

Fountain pens made my handwriting look better, less of an illegible mess. Because of the nature of fps, I had to slow down. This gave me time to think and also let my hand rest. I also didn’t have to press down hard with fps, like I did with ballpoints.

Fountain pens put the joy back in writing for me. I loved seeing my words in crazy-colored ink. I feel good about using up my stationery hoard and being creative. I’ve finished three A5 notebooks that way, and plan to continue.

Now for more general advice! I started writing several pages every day. Yes, it’s hard but not as hard as you would think. I had pockets of time throughout the day where I just went on my phone. Instead, I worked on stories. My writing improved drastically. Looking back at one notebook, I see how I improved just in the spans of months. I wrote short stories in my notebooks to stretch my writing muscles. They were either full stories or scenes about characters. Writing constantly gave me the stamina to write 1,667 words a day.


Not everyone needs an outline, but I suggest one especially for Nano. With such a tight schedule, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of a story with no idea what to write. I used to be that person, called a “pantser” in the writing community because I wrote by the seat of my pants! Now, some people don’t need outlines, (like Stephen King, my fave writer), but for new writers, it’s a good idea. Not having an outline was my biggest problem. It hindered me completing Nano, and before that, from finishing any story longer than a few pages.

Outlines don’t have to be scary things you had to do for English class essays. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I start with a bullet point list of scenes I want to write, improvising as I go. Then I sketch out the specifics of the scenes, like what characters are in it and what’s going to happen. Make sure to have a good plan for the middle of your novel. That’s where most people get lost because they have an idea for the beginning and end but have no idea how to get to the conclusion! The more I outline, the tighter my plot was. This is especially helpful for fantasy and sci-fi writers with complicated stories. It’s much easier to plot your novel beforehand than writing 120,000 words and realizing there are massive plot holes.

Some people say that outlines stifle their creativity, but I felt like it increased mine! I didn’t stick to the outline completely. Sometimes I went off in an entirely new direction or didn’t write certain scenes. Outlines are like maps. They’re helpful guides but ultimately it’s your story and you can do whatever you want. As I went along, I added new scenes, characters and plots I hadn’t thought of before.

I hope these tips help you with NaNoWriMo! It was truly a life-changing event for me as a writer and I recommend it for any writers who want a challenge. My username is abyssaltourguide on the Nano website. If you want to friend me during November Nano, hit me up there!