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NaNoWriMo? NoNoWriMo?

So, I’ve got this crazy idea…

For the last several weeks months, I’ve been talking about and giving serious thought to participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo is one of several programs sponsored by the Office of Letters and Light (OLL), a nonprofit organization whose entire aim is to inspire a love of writing in children and adults.  NaNoWriMo participants, called Wrimos, make a pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  Wrimos are encouraged to write chapter outlines and character profiles and to prepare early, but the actual rules of the game don’t allow for any actual novel writing until November.  I first learned about NaNoWriMo last year and I desperately wanted to do it, but I found out about it right before it started, and with no advanced prep or direction whatsoever, I let November slip by without participating.  This year, I am prepared.  I mean, I am prepared.  I have six (!!!) pages of chapter outlines, and countless other pages of random notes about my characters and the goings-on of their lives.  I’ve still got more prep work to do, but I am in really good shape to launch on November 1st.  I know I am a good writer, and I know I’ve got the support of the people around me (to include the spousal unit and kiddo, family, friends, and even my boss).  But yet, I am filled with doubts.  I worry about NaNoWriMo all the time, and I am afraid that I will let these worries hold me back from participating.  Here’s a taste of what’s going on in my mind…

“There is no possible way I can do this!”

There are 30 days in November.  Divide 50,000 words by 30 days and you get 1667, give or take.  That’s almost 1700 words per day that I’d need to write in order to make sure I remain on track to make my goal.  That’s a LOT of writing to do in one day!  I have a demanding job (more on that below), a two-hour daily commute, a marriage I don’t want to neglect for a month, and a tweenaged daughter whose school and extracurricular activities keep us constantly on the go-go-go.  Oh, and don’t forget that there’s a major holiday in November, too.  Someone’s gotta make that turkey, although I might be able to convince my mother-in-law to do that if I promise Christmas and all the trimmings at our house.  Even though I have the support of my amazing family, I don’t want to miss out on their lives during the month of November.  I simply just don’t know if I have the time to devote to this project sufficient to be a success.

“I won’t have the energy!”

I mentioned having a demanding job.  My official title is a Management Analyst, and I work for a subagency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  My real job is to handle anything and everything related to human resources for our 115 or so staff spread across four states.  I spend the entire month of October dedicated to performance appraisals for our entire staff.  First, I write and re-write and re-write the appraisal for our Regional Administrator (which is neither easy nor fun…nor is the review process from management), and then I spend the rest of the month reviewing and correcting and rejecting staff appraisals.  It sounds easy and it really is, but it’s a high stress time and there never seems to be enough time to get everything finalized, approved, and sent on to Chicago.  October 31st is always the big due date, and I worry each year that I won’t get everything done and that I’ll subsequently miss Halloween and its shenanigans with my family.  That has never happened, thank goodness, and with each year, I get better and better at this, so the likelihood is good that I’ll be better than fine this year.  This year, I even built in an extra day for a buffer, giving management an October 30th deadline and buying myself one extra day for all the last-second “Oops, please fix that for us Jen” problems that always arise.  I am always exhausted on November 1st, and I don’t know if I’ll have the zip to launch right in to a huge writing project with a lofty word goal and a quickly-approaching deadline.

“Perfectionism will be my downfall.”

The folks over at OLL are pretty clear.  They don’t want Wrimos to focus on perfection.  Rather, they want the focus to be on the journey of self-discovery NaNoWriMo participants go on when they embark on and undergo this challenge.  OLL will tell you not to worry about everything being perfect.  Just get the story out.  Um, yeah, no, that’s not me.  I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing.  I read and re-read and edit and fix and re-think and re-do.  Over and over.  And don’t get me started on format and page numbering and margins and nitpicky pieces of perfection.  It has to be “just so.”  I am afraid that I will focus more on making it all perfect and lose the inspiration for the project because I can’t be the perfect storyteller.  What if I can’t tell a perfectly rounded story?  What if I leave some critical detail out, or my characters look undeveloped and not-well-thought-out?  I said earlier this month that Aaron Sorkin, the amazing television writer, is the reason I can’t ever be a professional writer.  No one can write characters like that!  See what I mean?  I can’t be content to just be some fledgling writer finding her way and growing herself as an author!  I have to compare myself to one of television’s best screenwriters ever!

“The mojo!  What if I lose it?!”

As I stated above, I spent many hours this summer writing chapter outlines and plotting out the lives of the characters in my story.  In moments of pure inspiration and genius, the ideas flew out of me like crazy.  They came and came and the inspiration grew and grew and I was a journaling fool, making sure every awesome thought was recorded and excitedly linking ideas and paths for my characters to take.  What happens of all that mojo dries up come November?  What if the ideas stop coming?  I have this nightmarish vision of being halfway through and be-bopping along just fine and then WHAMMO, no ideas!  The well runneth dry!  No more awesome character arcs and exciting plots!  THEN what would I do?!?

“I don’t want to get sued!”

So this story I want to tell?  It’s not exactly a novel.  NaNoWriMo defines a novel as a “work of fiction,” but they do give a little wiggle room and allow Wrimos to write works of historical fiction.  That’s what my piece would (will?) be about.  Someone died many years ago.  When I was two years old.  In a state hundreds of miles away from where I lived.  There would never have ever been any opportunity for her and I to have known each other, and yet her story resonates inside me and I am dying to learn more about her and to research her life.  She is a huge, huge part of my story.  Given the fact that she died before I was born and I never had the opportunity to meet her, the facts in my story are highly fictionalized.  Everything I plan to write paints this woman in the highest of light and with the brightest of color, but I worry that her family may not take kindly to my fictionalizing her life and their lives and that they may sue me.  If I bill it as historical fiction, I can probably get away with it.  But….what if?  Please don’t ask me her name just yet.  You’ll know when (if?) I write the book, I promise.

“I don’t want to hurt her…or her family.”

This one’s the biggie.  This woman I want to write about?  She took her own life.  I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve spent agonizing over this.  Am I hurting her by doing this?  She took her own life.  She wanted to be at peace.  In writing anything about her, am I hurting her spirit?  Interrupting her peace?  Forcing her back in to a world she so desperately wanted to leave?  And what about her family?  Would doing this hurt them, too?  Even if I paint them in the most respectful of lights, which, please believe me, is my plan, would my words cause them pain by bringing up painful memories from so many years ago?  I would never, ever want to do anything to hurt these people…or the soul of this woman who so fascinates me and whose life ended so many years ago.  Sometimes, the enormity of it all gets to me and I think to myself, “I just cannot do this.”

So, doubts in mind and outlines in hand, I look up NaNoWriMo quite often online and scramble to find websites and writings of other authors, either experienced Wrimos or newbies like myself.  Last Friday, I stumbled upon something completely awesome.  Kevin Kaiser has written an e-book called, “@WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers.”  This book is billed as a support for Wrimos to keep them moving in the right direction, and to prevent burnout and throwing in the towel.  Apparently, only 14% of last year’s Wrimos actually made it to the finish line.  If I embark on this journey, I want to go all the way and see it all the way through to the end.  Which makes me the perfect person to read this book, eh?  So Kevin’s looking for 100 people to be on his “launch team” for this book…to read it stem-to-stern and to help him promote it.  Who better to be on this launch team than me?  Someone chock full of NaNoWriMo doubts and unclear if she’ll make it all the way?  I sent Kevin an EMAIL and volunteered to be on the launch team, and I hope he picks me!  Please keep your fingers crossed for me!

So that’s about it….I want to write but have doubts.  If you have ever done NaNoWriMo, I would love to talk to you.  If you know and love me and want to help me sort out my insanity and help me quell the (very loud!) voices of these doubts, I welcome your insight!  Thanks for reading, everyone!  Oh, and bug me as we get closer and closer to November.  “You ARE doing NaNoWriMo.  RIGHT, Jen?!?!?”  🙂


  1. Jen, You KNOW how I feel about this! It is in your heart and soul! to write this story! There is no way you could EVER hurt her family or her reputation…You have been haunted by her story for years!!! Maybe SHE is telling you to do this for a reason??? Maybe SHE wants to send a message to just ONE person who is considering Suicide themselves? You have to look into your heart and either commit or let it go…Only YOU know if you are ready to write this fantastic story! Either way I support your choice and I will be happy to help in any way should you decide to move forward! Love you!!!! <3 Mom V


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