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Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

by Christa Kinde

I first heard about NaNoWriMo from writing friends. They talked about the annual event with a blend of reverence and enthusiasm that made me curious. For those not in the know, November is National Novel Writing Month, and participants attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Exactly the sort of crazy scheme I enjoy.

For the past decade, I’ve taken part—sometimes officially, sometimes unofficially. Looking back, I can tell that NaNoWriMo is responsible for many of my longstanding authorial habits. Lessons learned:

Lots of people from lots of places write. The creative rush of writing usually happens during hushed times, when we’re alone with our thoughts. But we’re not alone in our efforts. NaNoWriMo is equal parts challenge and celebration, with writers from all over the world coming together. Become part of something bigger.

Authors are a diverse bunch. Log into the site, and you’ll find pep talks, advice, and encouragement to help you along, no matter what kind of story you’re telling. And there are all kinds. Writers usually assign a genre to their projects, making it possible to buddy up with kindred spirits. Find your people.

Capturing ideas is quick work. Are you skeptical? Writing a novel in thirty days may sound too good to be true. So let’s clarify. The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t a polished novel ready for publication. It’s words on paper. You’re generating the raw material that will become a book. Refinement begins in the aftermath.

Stories change shape while you’re writing them. NaNoWriMo provides full emersion into the storytelling process. You think, dream, live, breathe, wrestle, and write little else for thirty days. And in the press to churn out a daily quota, you have to get pretty creative and (gasp) make up stuff. Stories flow, morph, and flourish under all that attention.

Little by little, you can reach your goal. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I ever learned from NaNoWriMo was the value of daily habits. Fifty thousand words might seem an impossible task, but I can usually hit my day’s quota in four 15-minute word sprints. A book is written page-by-page, and a page is written word-by-word. Slow and steady really does get ’er done.

Winning isn’t everything. Statistically speaking, most people don’t “win” NaNoWriMo. Because life interrupted, because doubts crept in, because habits don’t form themselves, because making up stuff can be (gasp) hard. Hitting the mark is certainly satisfying, but all progress is progress. Push past the distractions and find out what’s possible.

November is a rush, but come December first, I’ll be right back in my corner, stretching my imagination to hit my daily quota on the next project. Because novel-writing is a way of life. One we should tackle with reverence and enthusiasm. Celebrate the challenge!


Christa Kinde writes studies, stories, and devotionals that bring truth into focus and give faith a practical spin. Her angel-filled Threshold series is complete in four volumes from Zonderkidz. She also publishes family-friendly fantasy under her maiden name, C.J. Milbrandt. More at CJMilbrandt.com and ChristaKinde.com.

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2 Responses to Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo

  1. JPC Allen says:

    NaNoWriMo sounds like something I would like to try, but I wish it was in February or March, which are two very boring months in my life. And I enjoyed your book “The Blue Door”.

  2. I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo for the exact same reasons you do! It’s helped me get four novels down where I can read them instead of dream them.

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