Mystery of NaNoWriMo Unveiled

This month celebrates the frenzied craze of writing known as NaNoWriMo. I’m a WriMo and some of you might be asking, What is a WriMo?

Let me share. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place each November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month. To call yourself a NaNo Winner, you must complete 50,000 words in 30 days.

Last year was the first time I accepted the challenge and stepped up to the NaNo plate. My husband kept asking me how I was doing with the ‘Rino’ thing—he loves to tease me, but he was supportive.  His support was so important and so was the support of my writers group and buddies participating in NaNoWriMo. We cheered each other on and watched the word counts climb higher each day. We lent an ear when someone had a difficult day and only logged 200 words instead of 2,000 and we had a little friendly competition.

I had always wondered just how much I could write if I cleared out all the distractions and focused on typing as fast and furiously as I could on a book. When I signed up, I figured it would be a good way to get back into writing, but there was no way I could make it to 50,000 words. So why did I sign up?

Have you ever heard the story about Florence Chadwick—the first woman to swim across the English Channel from both directions?

In 1952, Florence attempted to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she found out she had stopped swimming just one mile away from her destination.[2] 

Two months later, Chadwick tried again. This time was different. The same thick fog set in, but she made it because she said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind while she swam. Courtesy of

In November 2010, my fourth baby was just two weeks old when the challenge began and after the long and difficult pregnancy, I was feeling like I could conquer the world. And so I looked at my calendar and subtracted the Sundays and a couple other days that I knew I would not be available to write. Then I figured that I needed to write a little over 2,000 words a day to complete my goal. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I mean, do you know how often newborns need to eat and that’s not even figuring in the sleep deprivation. But I pushed myself harder than I ever have in my writing and I did it. I’ve held onto that feeling of accomplishment for a year as I’ve continued to write, edit, and prepare for this next NaNo.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How can I find more time to write?” Then I would urge you to sign up for NaNo.

Something I discovered was that often the hardest part about writing, or any goal for that matter, is to get started. Sometimes we think everything must be perfect, we need to have every single plot wrinkle ironed out before we can begin. We must wait for the stars to align before we can begin. NaNo gives a person permission to write with reckless abandon and fill those pages with words as fast as possible.

Even now, a year later, I’m still practicing the lesson I learned. Just sit down and get started. If I only get to write for five minutes before one of my kids need me, then that’s five more minutes than I would’ve written otherwise. I write in snatches and it’s the most wonderful feeling when I’m playing with kids, changing diapers, reading books to them, racing cars, breaking up fights and through it all my word count is piling up. 100 words here and 200 words there make a big difference in chipping away at that 2,000 word goal each day.

I’d also like to note that 50,000 words does not a novel make—a novella, yes, but a novel usually is at least 70,000 words and many times closer to 100,000 words. The novel I worked on last year during November ended up being around 83,000 words and I revised like crazy for the next five months before turning it into my publisher. CALLER ID will be published March 2012 and I’m still editing/revising that baby! But without NaNo, I wouldn’t have finished that book. I’m sure that I would have tried, but not realizing how much I could write would have prevented me from reaching my goal.

I have a deadline I’m working against for another novel, so during the month of October I challenged myself to a personal NaNo and wrote almost 40,000 words. I’ll continue into November to finish that novel. If you’d like to be my NaNo buddy, click here for RachelleJ.Christensen

What have you learned about challenging yourself?

About Rachelle Christensen

I’m a mom of four cute kids—two girls and two boys. I have an amazing husband, three cats, and five chickens. My first novel was awarded Outstanding Book of the Year from the League of Utah Writers and was also a 2010 Whitney Finalist. My second suspense novel, CALLER ID, was released March 2012. I was born and raised in the rural farmlands of southern Idaho and I like to work over my tiny piece of field AKA garden each year. I love reading, running, singing and playing the piano. After graduating from Utah State University, my husband and I moved our family to Utah County. Visit my blog at to learn more about upcoming books.
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5 Responses to Mystery of NaNoWriMo Unveiled

  1. Darlene says:

    Thanks, Rachelle. This month I am doing NaNo for the second time. This time I went in with absolutely no idea what I’d write, and I’m having a blast (OK, only 5K words in, but still). My biggest weakness as a writer is being closed to my subconscious and overly-controlling. NaNo breaks me out of that. Wheeeeeee!

  2. Rachelle, that’s fantastic that you’ve accomplished so much through NaNo! I’ve never tried it myself, but maybe someday . . .

  3. Moriah Jovan says:

    By the way, if you need a little push, encouragement, cheering on in real time, I operate a chat room where we do 20-minute writing sprints. At the end of that 20 minutes, you pony up how many words you wrote and, if you want, share a snippet.

    There are specialty sub-chat rooms and you can create your own chat rooms on the fly (password-protected even!).

    Every year that passes we get more and more people for NaNo in there. A couple of NYT bestsellers are year-round daily regulars because they use the sprints to get their word counts in for the day.

    Everyone’s welcome and all sensibilities are inquired after and respected before posting of snippets or questionable conversation.

  4. Darlene–way to go! Turn off that editor and go for it.

    Stephanie–I think you’re doing pretty good ;) Want to share your winning formula?

    Moriah–That’s what I love about NaNo is having the support from friends. Thanks for the links.

  5. I love NNWM! I’ve done it 3 times and learned so much about writing that I recommend it to everyone. I’m not doing it this year because I’m in the middle of a novel, but probably next year.


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