Arts & Culture

A Writer’s Tale: National Novel Writing Month

Monday 19 November
A Writer’s Tale: National Novel Writing Month

- November 19 at 8:30 AM

by Lizzie Ward

National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo, was set up by Chris Baty one July in 1999. It began with 21 people, determined to write 50,000 words in one month. Since that first July, the challenge has progressed to a worldwide phenomenon, taking place in November each year. This year it has grown to well over 200,000 people. 50,000 words seem like a lot, but it boils down to roughly 1,667 words per day for 30 days.

Last year, I decided to give it a go. I’m not sure what made me decide to do it, except for the fact that writing is what I do, and I needed a challenge – a kick start to get my series of novels written. My novel had a premise, a bit of an outline, and I had already written a few chapters of it. When November rolled around, I started again, from scratch, discarding the old writing and coming to it from a fresh perspective. It was exhilarating, frustrating but ultimately worthwhile – I came away with a workable first draft.

This year, I’m doing something different. I’m writing the sequel to the first novel, without an exact idea of what the story is, or where it will lead me. There was no outlining involved and some people might think this is extremely disorganised, and in a way, it is. All I had was an idea of the opening scene. It did make it slightly easier that I knew my character and most of the others from the last book, but every project is a new one. Some NaNoWriMo writers plan to within an inch of their lives whilst others fly by the seat of their pants. That is what I’m doing this year. It’s fun, but it’s also daunting!

Since I’m writing a series, this time I have ‘The Fear’: the thing that all writers and artists get from time to time. It’s the fear that you’ll fail, that you’ll get bored of what you’re writing, that it will be 100,000 words of drivel that nobody will want to read. It also didn’t help that, this year, I have written very little fiction – so I’m coming back to it with a sense of the novice. Writing only gets better with practice. The more you write, the better you get. The beginning of last year’s first draft was a mess, but the more I wrote the better and more involved the story became.

This second novel is an exercise in perseverance. Many writers find the actual writing part the worst part of the whole thing. Maybe because writing isn’t romantic or easy – it’s work, just like anything else. The more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. That is why something like NaNoWriMo is so important. It gives you a month of pure, distilled creation. Even in moments of doubt, you have a deadline – and a community behind you.

If you want to read more about my journey –visit