NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write!

by Mariah Castillo

Get started on your novel today!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) started on Saturday but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to try to develop your novel writing skills. This November, writers everywhere will embark on a month-long journey of commitment, late nights, and (maybe- no, definitely) tears.

A novel is at least 50,000 words in length. Put into perspective, one page on Word in Times New Roman 12-point font double spaced is about 250 words. Your novel would be a 200-page Word document. In one month, you’ll be writing more than your professor for a heavy writing class probably expects you to write in one semester.
The official rules are simple. Write 50,000 words by November 30. You can outline everything for your novel, but your actual novel has to start being written by November 1. You can write anything, even fanfiction, but the official NaNoWriMo site says that it’s best that you do NOT use November as the time to finish an old, unfinished piece; everything should be new. While November 1 has indeed passed, why not take this November as a practice for next year and try to write a substantial amount each day?

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and let me tell you, it was a doozy. I rarely went out. I stayed on campus during Fall Break. Right after eating my Thanksgiving meal with my family, I went straight back on my laptop. I tried (and sometimes failed) to avoid going on my favorite websites when I looked online for references. This all happened during the semester with the lightest workload, so when I finished, I was so tired I haven’t touched it since. I really didn’t know how draining, physically and emotionally, it is to write a novel. I salute all of you who have written and edited your works, whether or not you’ve published it.

Last year, when I wrote about National Novel Writing Month, I listed a few tips on how to successfully finish a novel. This year, as sort of a reflection of my past experience, I’m going to write about whether or not you should consider doing this next year and practicing this year. Definitely try NaNoWriMo if:

• You like to write stories
• You’ve taken the time to plan it out. Even a general summary of each chapter or a plot outline is great.
• You don’t have any big time commitments to take you away from writing
• You don’t have any deadlines looming at the end of the month
• You would be able to sacrifice your social life
• You have the self-control to not use your favorite time sinks

Proceed with caution if:

• You’ve never written a fictional story since 6th grade
• Have an internship and/or a really busy class schedule
• Your research projects and papers are due on December 1st ( which is a Monday this year)
• You can’t block out distractions
• You need to constantly interact with others
• You’re travelling during Fall Break and Thanksgiving Weekend

Don’t you wish you could write a novel on a typewriter?

I want to say that this list is completely subjective. I did go out a few times. I enjoyed spending time with family and friends over turkey. It’s healthy to seek out human interaction. Writing a novel, however, on top of school and work is a big commitment and, for me, my social life is the first to go.

Lastly, just because November is National Novel Writing Month doesn’t mean you have to write a novel in November. The goal is to get your ideas on paper in a month, and to get yourself used to writing every day. I personally will not be doing NaNoWriMo this year. With two big research projects and an internship, I know I can’t invest in writing a novel at this time. I’ll be spending my Winter Break at home, however, so I can use that time to create something amazing. If you’re just bumming it out at home after finals, I recommend you make it your own writing month as well. It’s the only time before summer break to write for pleasure.

Think long and hard before committing to writing those 50,000 words. If you can’t do it right now, try to commit to writing during one of your semester breaks. However, if you are up for the challenge, and if you really believe that you can finish your novel by November 30th, then by all means, get ready to write – this year or next!

Mariah Castillo is a junior at Barnard and the Contributing Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of and


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