NaNoWriMo Update: Ode to the Late Starters


Okay, NaNoWriMers! Er, sorry, Wrimos. (Are speedy November poets called NaNoRhymers?) It’s November 8th, officially the start of week two! How are you doing? What’s your word count? Nervous to speak up, huh? It’s okay, I’ll go first.

As of NaNoWriMo day 8, my official word count is….




So, hey! No matter how little you’ve written, you can’t be doing worse than I am. Unless you deleted a bunch of things you wrote before and your word count is negative, in which case I have one of two things to say to you:

  1. Great work making your writing more concise! Quality editing is a lot more than half the battle. *fist bump*
  2. STOP STOP STOP NO *slaps your hand away from the computer* *tears off the delete key* Don’t throw away what you’ve written wholesale, because even bad writing is writing you can learn from or even salvage.


But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that you’re a NaNoWriMo participant with a word count greater than or equal to zero.

You might be asking how I can go around calling myself a writer when I’ve written nothing all month. Well—that’s not strictly true. I haven’t written anything for NaNoWriMo. I have written 34 pages of a stage play, about 800 words of blog posts (not including this one), and 3000 words of daily writing exercises.

That matters, in the way that all writing matters, but it doesn’t matter at all when it comes to my NaNoWriMo novel.

Maybe you’ve written something non-NaNo related, or maybe you haven’t written anything at all for the whole month. The NaNoWriMo progress bar makes no distinction. I don’t get brownie points for my stage play or writing exercises. Time marches on, merciless.

I feel awfully calm about it.

Look, maybe you started on track and fell behind early. Maybe, like me, you haven’t written a single word on your project.

Don’t give up.

Why not? Well, I know that it’s perfectly possible to write 50,000 words in 22 days rather than 30. The first year I “won” NaNoWriMo, I finished about a week early. My highest word count for a single day of focused writing broke 10,000 words. I say this not to brag—you certainly don’t know how good any of those words are—but to say that you can do this, too. It wasn’t magic. All I did was set a lot of time aside, make a plan in rough strokes, and unflinchingly sever all contact from the internet.

So don’t feel discouraged. It is absolutely still possible to finish NaNoWriMo in three weeks. If you want to do it, you can.

I don’t want to be too absolutist—if you’re working 60 hours a week and raising children and battling horrifying health problems and so on, then I want to be sensitive to that. It may truly be impossible for you to write 50,000 words in one month.

But it is possible for you to try, and the worst thing that can happen then is that you write less than 50,000 words in which case, hey! You still brought a whole bunch of words into this world that weren’t here before. You told a story—and maybe it’s finished and maybe it’s not, but that’s still more than a lot of people ever do. It is real and valuable and worth being proud of, “winner’s” certificates be damned!

You want to know something else? It’s a secret. Here, I’ll let you in on the forbidden lore of the elite sect of NaNoWriMo winners:

You can still write on December 1st. The second, too. The third, even. You can write on any god damned day of the year that you want, so don’t you dare let a late entrance to NaNoWriMo stop you from telling a story if that’s what you want to do.

You and me? We’re fashionably late, suckers.

Because here’s the other thing: that stage play I’m writing? I decided before November began that I was going to finish that before I started my NaNoWriMo project. I don’t like leaving creative projects unfinished. I’ve done it before, and no matter how much I mean it when I say that I’ll totally come back to it later, it rarely works out that way.

I’m going to finish that play, and I’m going to finish my NaNoWriMo novel.

“Finished” does not mean 50,000 words. It does not mean November 30th.

It means I’ve made it to the end of the story, and it doesn’t matter what day or month it is when that happens. I’m still going to do it, just because I can—and so can you.

So late starters? Fallen-behinders? I’m not having it. We’re fashionably late. If we’re going to do this thing, let’s do it in style.

Need inspiration? Hit me up on Twitter, become my NaNo buddy, or just drop by in the comments here!

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