My First NaNoWriMo Experience

Like many other writers, I accepted the challenge to write a novel (or at least 50K words of one) during the month of November.  This being my first time participating, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  After 30 days of nearly continuous writing (I took 2 days off to work on the final edits of Who Is Evelyn Dae?) I finished with 50,182 words and a decent first draft of a new science fiction novel!


Now as most writers know, writing daily can be easy or excruciating depending on the circumstances going into the session.  One of the most difficult parts of this challenge was the feeling that I couldn’t miss a day, even if I wasn’t particularly inspired to write anything.  My initial goal was to get ahead early.  That plan failed miserably!  If you look at my NaNo graph, every time I pulled ahead, something would come up (remember those break days?) to thwart my advance.

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Yet, somehow I managed to “win” by getting all my words.  How did I accomplish this feat?  Well, I had a great support system of writing buddies to cheer me on and keep me going.  Often we would meet on twitter and complete “writing sprints” together by writing for a set amount of time and then tweet our word count for the duration.  (I know there were WSS sanctioned events, too, but unfortunately the times didn’t work with my schedule.)  I also had my own motivation in the form of a sticker chart (yes, stickers!) where I would earn a small sticker for every 250 words and a big sticker when I hit my daily goal of 1750 words.  There were so many days I would have quit if it weren’t for that big sticker reward.


So, what did I learn from this experience?  For one thing, I am a very consistent writer.  Whatever word count I achieve in the first thirty minutes of writing typically stays the same for the duration of the session.  I have always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author, but I outlined extensively (meaning I spent an entire hour placing chapter markers and notes for all 30 days) and that helped get me through the dead zones of the book.  I am incapable of writing without editing, and although it cost me on my daily count, I’m hoping it will also mean when I revisit the story in a few months, I’ll still like it. 


Finally, all this begs the question; will I participate again next year?  Well, in the interest of preserving my marriage, my official answer right now is maybe.  However, I predict that by the time next November first rolls around, my fingers will once again be poised over the keyboard ready to type with reckless abandon for another 30 days…


Sarah LaFleur is the author of newly released Who Is Evelyn Dae?  Check out her blog for more information!

4 comments for “My First NaNoWriMo Experience

  1. December 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks so much for writing about your experience with NaNoWriMo. I plan to do it next year and look for people who discuss how they liked or struggled with the month-long writing challenge. I am amazed at how you increased your word-count. You had a slow beginning but then your rocketed to where you needed to be.

    I looked at Amazon for your book. It has great reviews and also looks like something I would like to read. I have to wait a bit until my book allowance builds up after it was depleted for Christmas presents. Congratulations with everything!


    • Sarah LaFleur
      December 25, 2013 at 8:28 am

      Thanks so much Monique! I did have a very slow beginning… one bit of advice I left out… don’t attempt something like this while on vacation!

  2. Becca
    December 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Great post, Sarah!

    I love the sticker calendar. I will definitely do that next year! I need all the help I can get to motivate me to get those words down. This was my second year, and I still haven’t “won”.

    Here’s hoping that next year I’ll get the win!
    Becca 😉

    • Sarah LaFleur
      December 25, 2013 at 8:30 am

      The stickers really helped… and I think rewarding myself for small word counts was part of that success… especially on the days when I just couldn’t work much on the project. I’ll happily cheer you on next year 🙂

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