NaNoWriMo: Let the Sleep Deprivation Begin

It’s Day 2 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the epic binge writing sesh in which writers all over the world commit to tapping out 50,000 words in just 30 days. Insane right? Indeed. And I’m taking part for the first time this year.

So this month Lectito is throwing a spotlight on writers and writing. I’m going to be talking craft and tips and I’m currently on the hunt for five writers to profile and follow on their NaNoWriMo journey. If you’re keen to be involved, find out more here.

But for now, I’ll start by telling you a little about this crazy initiative and why I chose to get involved.

How does NaNoWriMo work?

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that the rules are flexible—it’s a personal challenge. Writers commit to writing 50,000 words towards a novel by 11:59 p.m. on 30 November.

Participating writers create a free profile on, where they can track their word count, connect with other writers and upload their work. 

In 2014 over 300,000 adults and almost 90,000 young writers signed up to take part.

If you’ve ever thought about writing a book and wondered if you have what it takes, NaNoWriMo is a great way to find out.

Do NaNoWriMo manuscripts ever get published? Indeed, they do. Although, it’s worth pointing out that banging out your 50,000 words in 30 days probably isn’t enough to get publishers beating down your door. For a start, 50,000 words is actually pretty short for a novel, and in addition to finishing/fleshing out the story you’re probably going to want to do some serious redrafting and editing once you’ve caught up on sleep.

Why the hell would I sign myself up for such insanity?

A few reasons. First, it’s been on my bucket list for years. I’m a writer by profession and it seems like an exercise every wordsmith should try, even if nothing comes of it. It’s good to shake up your routine and experiment with a new method every now and then.

Second, I fear the blank page. I’m a perfectionist and the first draft is not my friend. I get too caught up in finding the right words first time round and when they won’t come I spend long periods of time staring at the blinking cursor before giving up and watching Amy Schumer clips on YouTube.

When I was in high school, I used to just write. I’d get completely lost in whatever story I was working on. I didn’t know enough about writing to see the flaws in what I was doing. Flash forward twelve years and I know a lot about writing fiction—I have a PhD on the subject. All that knowledge and experience is incredibly valuable and it’s made me a much stronger writer, but it can also be limiting. Sometimes I just need to get the skeleton of a story down before I start tinkering with the details but I find it near impossible to shut down my internal editor. NaNoWriMo seems a good way to force myself back into my old way of writing and smash out a first draft.

Third, I made a pact. I have a writing buddy and, in an effort to defeat the dread monster writer’s block, we promised each other first drafts of our work-in-progress by Christmas. My efforts to defeat the aforementioned scourge have not gone well, and NaNoWriMo is my only hope for getting the story drafted in time.

What am I doing for NaNoWriMo?

I’m cheating. Well, sort of. I’ve already started my book, in fact, I have 41,000 words, which leaves me 35,000 words shy of my anticipated word count. It’s been a real struggle over the past few months to make it this far and I realised that part of the reason it’s been so damn difficult is that I was telling the story in the wrong voice. So about 5,000 words ago I switched from third person past tense to first person present tense, and the words have flowed much smoother since, but now I have to go back and rework half the story. Ugh.

My goal for NaNoWriMo is first, to finish the manuscript, and, second, to rework the first half in the right voice. It feels stupidly ambitious, but I’m determnined to try.

My story is YA fantasy, which is a new genre for me. My previous work has been YA, but rooted in the real. I’m still working on the elevator pitch, but basically the plot is very loosely inspired by the Oneiroi, the dream gods in ancient Greek mythology. In my story, the Oneiroi cast dreams for the dying to ferry them from one world to the next, but mortals have figured out that they can use Oneiroi blood to extend their life and keep themselves looking young. The mortals coerce the reigning Heir of Morpheus into allowing his people to be taken into captivity. But neither he nor the mortals anticipate how this will upset the balance of the universe. My protagonist, Anassa, is one of the few Oneiroi to escape and with the help of the dark fate, Moros, and her fellow oneiros, Lex, she sets out to free her people and restore order.

The story’s got action, romance and adventure, but it’s also about questioning the status quo, making informed choices and exploring the darker side of what it means to listen to your heart and follow your dreams.

How’s it going so far?

Super well. Yesterday I did three loads of washing, cleaned the house, did the grocery shopping, took the dog for not one but two walks and decided it was a good day to get addicted to Battlestar Galactica. I wrote 380 words. Here’s hoping things improve.

It’s actually not as dire as it sounds. I try to keep the weekends free to spend with family and friends, but I’ve set aside Wed–Fri each week to write, so I plan to do the bulk of the work on those days and squeeze extra writing sessions between Beps in the evenings. That, or I just won’t sleep for the final week of the month. Either way, I SHALL NOT FAIL.

You can check in with my progress by visiting my NaNoWriMo profile.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you conquered the challenge before? What’s your project? How are you managing your time?

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