The Godsend that is NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t ,mean the Christmas trees going up in WalMarts and Targets around the country (seriously, can we not get through Thanksgiving first?). I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the kids call it).

That… is what the kids call it. Right?

Anyway, for the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a challenge in which you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. It sounds maddening, and it can be (but less so if you consider that averages out to 1,667 words a day). Truthfully, the maddening part comes at the end of the month, when Thanksgiving approaches and family obligations take precedence.

But there is one benefit to NaNoWriMo, particularly for someone like me.

I’ve made no secret, both on this page and on my social media platforms, about my writing struggles of late. My lack of productivity has taken a toll in recent months, not only on my (lack of) word count, but also in terms of my emotional well-being. Writer is a large part of my identity, and if I’m not writing…

But one thing about NaNoWriMo, and why it’s such an important program, is that it establishes the habit of daily writing. It’s difficult to meet the 50,000-word goal in perfect circumstances, but if you’re not writing every day, then the task is even more daunting. Not that there’s shame in not reaching 50,000 words; there isn’t, and any progress made during NaNoWriMo is to be celebrated.

And in the interest of transparency, I’ve reached the 50,000-word mark every year since 2014, but none of my projects have been finished by the time November ended. That’s where the habit of daily writing comes in. Ideally, that habit carries beyond November into the rest of the year.

Which, again, is the whole point.

Three of my novels — Bounty, Behind the Badge, and Notna — started as NaNoWriMo projects. The fifth Jill Andersen novel, Betrayed, was my NaNoWriMo project last year, and this year, I’m using NaNoWriMo to take on a story and a genre I’ve never tried before.

That challenge, and NaNoWriMo as a whole, has been invigorating. Just yesterday alone, I knocked out almost 4,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project — a fantasy romance titled Unforgotten (working title). I also wrote 4,000 words in completing a short story for an upcoming anthology (from the same folks who brought you Cracks in the Tapestry).

Without NaNoWriMo, I’m not sure I’m a writer — and if I am, I seriously doubt I’d be published. Establishing that habit, treating writing as a journey rather than a destination, is what November is all about. It’s the perfect tonic for a lack of productivity, and I can’t wait to see what other words the month will bring.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, best of luck to you! What are you writing? I’m J.D. Cunegan on NaNo’s website, so become a writing buddy if you’re so inclined.

And remember, even if you don’t reach 50,000 this month, anything you do create is worthwhile.


About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, not that one.

Though I’m seeing far too many Christmas trees for my liking…

No; starting tomorrow, NaNoWriMo beings anew. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s every November. Basically, you get 30 days to write a 50,000-word novel.

That’s it. It’s that simple, and that daunting, all at once.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (heretofore referred to as NaNo) every year since 2008, but I’ve only reached the 50,000-word goal three times (I did hit the mark in 2008, but I never finished that book, and we’ll just pretend it never existed). I also hit the 50,000-word mark in 2014 and 2015. But what became of those projects?

Well, you may have heard of them. I wrote Bounty in 2014 and Behind the Badge last year.

Some of NaNo’s naysayers are convinced there’s no way to write a brilliant, publishable book in just a month. And for the most part, I agree with them… but NaNo’s not about writing the best novel ever, first time through. No, it’s simply an exercise in putting words on a page, helping establish a habit of writing.

Basically, if you write an average of 1,667 words per day, every day, throughout November, you’ll reach the 50,000-word goal. It’s about how good the words are, or even what you do with those words once the calendar flips to December. It’s about putting the words on the page. It’s about writing for the sake of writing.

Some people do it for fun. Some use NaNo to tackle long-ignored projects. For others still, NaNo is simply affirmation of what they spend the rest of the year doing. For me, it’s a chance to knock out a first draft.

What I wrote in November 2014 and what’s currently available for sale are night and day. I wrote with reckless abandon in November… but I spent December through March editing, revising, re-writing… all of that stuff that tends to give us writers heartburn.

NaNo is an escape from all that. All that matters is getting words down.

Leave the editing and the hand-wringing and the self-doubt for December; starting tomorrow, those of us who participate in NaNo will feverishly peck at our keyboards, or scribble on our notepads, watching as the words mount and the word counts go up and up and up and up and…

Interrupt us at your own peril.

This year, I’ll be using NaNo to re-write — and finish — the first draft of my fantasy/supernatural epic Notna. What better way to finally get that project off the ground than the annual event that allowed me to push through two of my three currently-published novels?

You’d be surprised how many published novels began as NaNo projects. And quite frankly, I’m a fan of anything that fosters creativity, progress, community, and literacy. People who participate are writers and book lovers, and for the full experience, immersing yourself in a community of fellow NaNo’ers (there are locality-based groups abound; my group is amazing) is a must.

Ultimately, without NaNoWriMo, I’m not sure if I’m published right now. I’m a more productive, more polished, and more confident writer than I was before NaNo, and I look forward to November every year for just that reason.

To learn more about National Novel Writing Month, or to sign up, visit their website.