How to Embrace Your Inner Rebel with NaNoWriMo

How to Embrace Your Inner Rebel with NaNoWriMo

November is a super fun time of year. The days are shorter. The weather is colder. The holiday tunes are louder.

Why not, amidst all this joy, sprinkle in a little something even more festive? Like writing a 50,000-word novel over the course of 30 days?

(One of them in the U.S. being Thanksgiving, which is actually a multi-day event once you add in the prepping and the cleaning and the shopping and the school closures and the traveling and family and the migraines.)

National Novel Writing Month — or NaNoWriMo, as it’s more commonly known — is an annual November event for authors who want to add more stress into their lives. Each year, maniacs around the globe voluntarily sit for hours a day, 30 days in a row, attempting crank out 1,667 daily words.

Either out of curiosity or blatant stupidity (not quite sure which), this year I decided to join them.

Yes, I am NaNoWriMo’ing.

But, I’m not following the rules. I’m doing my own thing. I’m forging my own path.

I’m a NaNoWriMo Rebel!


(Full disclosure: I’ve never rebelled at anything in my life. I don’t even cheat on board games. I’m actually kind of horrified the woman above is throwing those books around. Doesn’t she realize she could get a paper cut?)

With NaNoWriMo, it’s cool to rebel, even if you’re not ordinarily rebellious. Sure, the guidelines say to write a novel with a daily goal of 1,667 words. But it’s not as if the NaNoPoPo is going to come by and throw on the cuffs if you veer off track.

So get creative! Bend the rules a bit. Make them work for you.

Here are a few suggestions on how to fight the (NaNoWri) man.

Word Counts Aren’t the Boss of You

Part of the reason many writers quit NaNoWriMo before the month’s end is the word goal. The justification is along the lines of: “If I can’t meet the daily goal, how the hell am I going to ever finish a novel in 30 days? May as well stop wasting my time and focus on something else.”

But what if you ignore the word goal?

What if you focus on writing as much as possible each and every day with no specific goal in mind?


When I sat to write on November 1, I floundered. I hit 759 words, and that alone took three hours. I felt like a failure, especially when reading updates by fellow writers on Facebook; some were penning more than 3,000 words a day. In comparison, my flimsy count was a colossal failure.

But then I realized: this is not a competition. Sure, other writers might be hitting their goals, but who’s to say their 3,000 words are any more impressive, funny, smart, or engaging than my 759?

Also, 759 words I wrote today are 759 words that weren’t on the page yesterday. I didn’t just write 759 words. I WROTE SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE WORDS.

The takeaway: Let go of the suggested word count and just write — every day, for as long as you can.

Maybe you won’t ever hit 1,667 words in one day, but if you can get into a daily writing routine as a result of this month’s challenge, then in my opinion, NaNoWriMo will have been a success.

You Can Shove Your November 30th Deadline

One of my favorite aspects of the NaNoWriMo website is the stats page. There’s a section on the page that states, “At this rate you will finish on” with a date; enter in your word count for the day and the date changes based on how many words you’ve written thus far.

If I stick with my current rate, I’ll finish my 50,000-word novel on December 22, which I’m happy with. Sure, completing a project by the end of November would be great, but knowing I can maintain my current rate of writing and still finish by the end of the year is exciting. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel. I can plug away each day and finish up before Christmas, at which time I can celebrate by drinking copious amounts of eggnog and drunkenly demanding my family refer to me as “Sandra Ebejer, Novelist.”

Point is, if you don’t think you can finish the project within the next few weeks, don’t fret. Write what you can, enter in your daily count, and watch your completion date inch closer.

Editing (While Writing) is for Losers

I’m a perfectionist, which leads to a slooooow writing process. I tend to edit as I go, with an online dictionary open at all times to find that oh-so-perfect word. This causes a few problems:

  • Searching the dictionary breaks the flow of writing, making it that much harder to continue once the word is found.

  • Relying on an online dictionary offers ample opportunities to open other tabs on my browser and check social media “for just a second.” Cut to three hours later and I’m all caught up on Twitter but haven’t written another word.

  • Even with the perfect phrase in place, I’m not happy with my work (Hello, Imposter Syndrome!), so my efforts are futile.

What NaNoWriMo has enabled me to do is write freely. I have a rough idea of my story, but I’ve made a commitment to myself not to aim for perfection. As a result, my work is sloppy. My characters are one-dimensional, their dialogue is laughable, and the plot plods along with no tension.

But, the act of writing feels great! I’m enjoying the process. I’m digging deeper into my creative side and learning to love storytelling again.

So, if you’re typically a stickler for a flawless first draft, don’t fret. As a NaNoWriMo Rebel you can break those perfectionist chains! You have permission to write total garbage, so long as you write something each and every day.

The cool part is, your writing will improve the more you work at it and when you’ve reached the 50,000-word goal you’ll have the bones of a novel just waiting to be fleshed out.

Remember: a crappy first draft is better than nothing. As Jodi Picoult says:

You can’t edit a blank page.

Novel? Who Wants to Write a Stupid Novel?

(Note: Novels aren’t stupid. I love them.)

What if you don’t want to write a novel? What if 50,000 words for one story is too much of a commitment? What if you don’t have an idea for an entire book? What if you really don’t want to write, period?

Guess what? You can STILL NaNoWriMo!

Use the month to write 30 blog posts. Write 30 poems. Write four short stories, one per week. Or, don’t write at all! A good friend of mine is using the month to dabble in other creative pursuits. She’s dubbed the month Non-NaWriMo and is posting her visual art — one piece per day — to her website.

. . .

So, don’t let NaNoWriMo’s rules keep you from participating. Join the fun. Take some risks, color outside the lines, and revel in your newfound Rebel status.

A version of this post first appeared in P.S. I Love You

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