For anyone unfamiliar with the term, that’s National Novel Writing Month.

November of every year.

NaNo is a rah rah, gung ho support for fast writing. A site that’ll graph your writing and cheer you on, or nag you, about how you are doing toward writing FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS IN A MONTH!

Seven years ago I thought that was impossible . . . but I gave it a try anyway.



Zombies 2010 Winner! And if it ever gets published, it’ll be under a pen name. Probably.



And again the next year.



The Barton Street Gym 2011 Winner! Published March 2013


Now, I’m not a joiner. Not a group person. But . . . somehow this works for me. It gives me an achievable daily writing goal, and constant reminders to NOT EDIT!!!!




Dancer 2013 Winner! Published May 2014


If you find yourself writing a few chapters, then going back and fixing them, then maybe writing another, but now you need to go back and change . . . NaNoWriMo may be what you need. Pit away that story you’ve been fussing over and pull out one of those other ideas you haven’t had time to write. And see if you can write an entire short novel in a month.



Directorate School 2014 Winner! Published August 2016


I’ve done it several years running. It pretty much increases my output by one book a year. Just 1666 words a day, and don’t even stop for Thanksgiving! Or aim higher, 2000 words a day is nothing, once you get rolling, right?



Fractured Loyalties 2015 Winner! Published April 2018

109 Fractured Loyalties small2And of course you’re going to keep writing a bit further, because “everyone says” 50K isn’t a big enough book.







Starship Atlantis 2016 Crash and burn!
No cookies for you this year, Uphoff!


That’s right. Sometimes your situation, or circumstances, or health keep you from writing. In this case, what I needed was beyond my skill set–lots of flashbacks–and not doable in a rush writing situation.


Oh sure, there’s all the polishing and editing, and real covers, not the quick one you slap together for NaNoWriMo.

But you can do that all later because you have 50K words of a novel right there. On your computer! You can even keep writing and make it a big novel.


Stone 2017 Winner!
Must find the time to polish it up and publish it.


And yes, this is a brag list.
Wouldn’t you like one?
So . . . set up an account and get writing. Even if your first one might never see the light of day. It might surprise you.


            1. Okay, I think I figured out the missing names. Apparently the new ones haven’t populated to the database yet. (they may not until November. The database gets whonkey in October as they prepare for the deluge.) Early years… the site would crash HARD in the first couple of days because they would assume X% in crease and get 2-3 times that and have to haul in more servers.

  1. I’m J.Pascal (I think… I’ll check when I get home) so if you sign up for NaNo send me a “buddy” invite.

    I got SO CLOSE to winning last year. In some ways I feel like I won anyway, with my 45K words because it was the first time I got past the “omg this doesn’t suck” moment that stopped me cold every other time I tried to do it.

    Self-sabotage… expert level.

    1. And that’s 45K words on page, well, in electrons, that, if you’re like me, would have dragged out for three months with multiple revisions and not been any better.

      1. Yes, I am. I need to do a couple pre-writing things such as make up a name-list and maybe draw a solar system map, but I did do a quickie cover and book title and put it up.

        I also need to completely finish a project before Nov 1st, which might end up making NaNo feel like relaxing.

      2. Laura, you should describe your “morning words, lunch words” process because that was enormously helpful to me. It sounds simple but it made a humongous difference in my productivity for sure. Other people might find it helpful, too.

        1. Ok, here goes.

          One of the astonishing benefits of NaNo for people like me, who start out not entirely sure of much besides the beginning and the end, and some small handful of scenes in between, is that writing a lot in one day makes your brain start beavering away on the story. (I am what is called a “pantser.” I write by the seat of my pants. I get all excited when I can outline bits of the story here and there, but usually I can’t, because how will I know what’s going to happen until I see how this bit plays out?) If I write a little, I only know a little. Writing a lot makes me see farther down the story’ road.

          Thus, you want to engage your brain early in the day. Also, you want to get words done early. What I am about to describe helps you on both fronts.

          Morning/breakfast words. Write ten words at breakfast. You are not required to write more than ten but you really, really have to write those ten. (I once saw a launch checklist that distinguished between things that were mandatory and things that were required. I was baffled. Those ten breakfast words are both mandatory and required, and I’m saying that for those of you able to tell the difference, which I can’t.) Because you only have to write ten, you will feel embarrassed if you don’t write a measly ten words, so you will do it. Ten words is quick, and you’ll finish them before you finish your caffeinated beverage of choice.

          Writing ten words will make you think about your story. You’ll start knowing what happens next. You’ll cogitate on your commute. You’ll make little notes if you’re on the train or talk into your phone if you’re driving. Don’t crash.

          One of the benefits–and it’s just a coincidence so don’t think about it too much–is that you’ll usually write more than ten words. Because you have to go to work, you will feel rushed and like you should leave, but you need to get this sentence/paragraph in before you forget it, and you might find you’ve written 50 words or even 300. That’s 50 or 300 you don’t have to write later. Those additional words are neither mandatory nor required under this regime. Just be glad you got them.

          Lunch words. Write 700 words at lunch. My children used to call NaNo the Month of No Love. I bought a ham on November 1, because we all know the definition of eternity: two people and a ham. Four people and a ham last a good long while, as well.

          Your work friends must feel unloved, too. For 30 days you will eat alone, unless you have someone doing NaNo with you at work. That person is allowed to sit with you. Funny fellows in the cafeteria will come up and ask if you form a Writer’s Block (true story) as you sit there churning out words. You will scowl and make them go away. At lunch, you write 700 words. More is great.

          Evening words. After dinner, do what you have to do. Whatever your goal, just get there. No TV. No games. No email or Facebook or nothing until you have met your goal after dinner. Do not start a load of laundry. Do not decide you need to call your aunt with whom you haven’t spoken in months because she’d so love to hear your voice. Call her after you reach your goal. You can do all that after you hit it. Knowing that your husband is waiting for you to watch the next episode of Daredevil will make you write faster. That’s a good thing.

          Do what I say for the first three days. Anyone can do something for three days. Then you will know if you like the habits and if they are helping you. (They will.) Be very afraid of doing it any other way, because if you stop for a day you will stop for three.

          Because of Thanksgiving I aim for 2100 words a day. Also, because of Day 17.

          Somewhere around Day 17 you will get exhausted. Don’t edit. (I admit I cheat and edit one thing if it turns out that it’s making further progress impossible. One year, I had the age of the secondary MC wrong. Fixing it allowed me to continue. Don’t edit, but don’t let that rule become a stumbling block. If you are editing to make your prose more lovely, however, you will not make 50K. Just trying to frighten you.) If you are all tuckered out on Day 17, look at your word count and say, “hey!, I get a day off and I’ll still be on track.” Then just write 300 words that day. Or none. On Day 18, get back on track. Do not get tired before Day 17.

          That is all.

          1. 1) Thank you for that outline
            2) *boggles* There are people who don’t finish a ham in a couple of days?!? We go through it so fast my husband had to put a veto on them for a while, because he gets tired of ham-and-beans made from the stripped down bone!
            Now, a turkey? That lasts FOREVER.

            1. And how long does that ham and bean last? First you get the whole ham in all its glory, then you get french toast and ham and cheese sandwiches, then just ham sandwiches, then the soup. Then leftovers of all of the above. It’s awesome.

              Then someone demands take out. After the take out? More ham.

              Ham shenanigans can get you halfway to Day 17.

              1. Ours is done in about a week, including breakfasts.
                Might be warped a bit because I do pack his lunches, and we homeschool so the kids and I are eating it for lunch, too.

              2. “Ham shenanigans.” That needs to be a name for something. I’m not sure it quite fits a band, at least not unless it’s an Irish band.

              3. Ham quiche! Ham in the omelets! Ham & potato chowder! Ham and cheese calzones! ham in potatoes au gratin!

            2. Thanksgiving is…not my favorite holiday. But I put up with it so I can have the turkey carcass to turn into soup.

          2. Um… mandatory and required… maybe the mandatory is due to a mandate like… an FFA regulation. Maybe required is due to a law of nature or engineering?

            That’s my best and only guess.

            It’s mandatory that all children in this family have names that start with “J” and it’s required that those names are pronounceable by the human tongue.

            Like that?

  2. I like NaNo month– even if I just playticipate. I don’t sign up, I don’t hold to the word counts, but I do make a point to sit there and write SOMETHING.

    A couple of times I had negative wordcounts, a few times I got thousands.

    It’s a good way to get into just DOING stuff.

    1. The NaNo site has this Evil Graph. It’s the best thing ever to keep me on track. Knowing that if I quit now, I’ll have to post a low wordcount out in public (as if anyone actually looks!) keeps me writing that last couple hundred words to keep me on track.

      1. The graph is remarkably motivating. Another thing that I find motivating is the “updated your word count X days in a row” achievement. If you don’t update every single day, there’s no way to get the “30 days” badge.

        Is it stupid? Yes. Will anyone care or even see if I earned it? No. Does it make certain that I write at least a tiny bit every day so I can get the darn achievement? You better believe it.

  3. Aaaaahhhh… food.

    So next on my list is to utilize the white board in our kitchen with a big “How not to starve in November” across the top and about two weeks worth of “slots” below with dates and a space to fill in what *other people* will be providing for dinner. I could probably throw some money at my (adult) kids to do the grocery shopping, too.

    1. Yes. The more you plan, and the more you announce, the greater your chances of success. Also, the slow cooker: a brisket with a bunch of vegetables and a cup of apple juice. Yum.

      1. WalMart has frozen pizzas the kids like– they’re under three bucks, I tend to stock up on them when there’s room in the chest freezer. (I suggest the rising crust one, but I LOVE me some bread, so YMMV.)

        Costco’s romaine bags are good, too– I chop up two or three and wash it, then drain it and leave it in ziploc boxes in the fridge. Line the bottom with paper towels if you can’t drain it enough.

        Of course, my littles are young enough that they’ll demand “grilled cheese sandwiches” every other day if given a chance. (I make it on a cookie sheet, or it’d take all day!)

  4. I’ve been doing Nano since ’03, only won 5 of the 15 years I’ve tried (so far). But most years I get a workable starting point.

    1. Oh wait… we’re supposed to come up with a concept in advance?!?!

      Last year I sat down at the keyboard on Nov 1st with NOTHING, and just started writing.

      Yes, I’ve never won NaNo… why do you ask? LOL!!

      1. Read Dean Wesley Smith – Writing into the Dark. He pretty much sold me on the idea. Kinda scary not knowing where I’m going in advance.
        However, we’ve all read sufficiently that we subconsciously recognize the structure of an engrossing story, and I think it’s POSSIBLE that we could manage to create it without a support. I do think he’s got a point about how too much structure inhibits the creativity.
        Anyway, read the book – it’s worth the time.

    2. Concept brainstorm!

      Genetically engineered humans to monstrous proportions and aspect, able to withstand vacuum, near absolute zero, and radiation. Find one, be one, get made into one against your will…

      What if the creature that holds your soul and spirit is smaller than your soul or spirit?

      What happens to physical/normal people when everyone else joins the singularity?

      Hillary really IS a lizard person.

      Man gets himself arrested by the oppressive interstellar empire in order to join his True Love at the penal colony planet except that he didn’t realize relativity effects once he gets there would mean she’s long died of old age. Make the planet suitably deadly.

      Who can add at least three more?

      1. What if your parents are aliens? And you’re adopted.

        What if the Moon is hollow and an alien death star like they said on that weird thing I watched on YouTube the other day?

        What if you could turn into a dog and your writer started a cool story but didn’t publish it so that we could read the rest of it? You could call it Stone. (Ahem.)

        1. Stone has turned into one of those three book series where it’s obvious that a fourth or fifth book may be needed to completely eliminate the Bad Guys. Poor dog will remain unpublished for awhile longer.

      2. 1. Due to extreme overcrowding in the world, people are assigned a number from 1 to 7, which indicates which day of the week they’re allowed to be conscious. Over time, almost of of the population forgets about this 1 in 7 situation until only a small group of Overseers are the only ones who are conscious 7 days a week…until a teenage has a medical condition that prevents him from entering the unconscious state….which starts the conflict / revolt.

        2. Someone discovers the electron-displacement phenomenon, which allows for the instantaneous transfer of electrons light-years apart. The race starts to see who can harness this new technology to transfer solid objects, not just electrons.

        3. The moon is seen shrinking in size and mass, little by little. An investigation reveals that the center of the moon is actually a gravity control device left by an alien civilization millenia ago, as the original moon had been destroyed by a tremendous space ship crash. The aliens didn’t want Earth’s tides to destroy man’s civilization, so they left the stop-gap in place, intending to return in due time and fix things permanently, but they never returned.

      3. The elves return after a thousand years, and are looking for the royal lineage that was overthrown thirty years ago because they were horrible people. They are not happy and want the king back.

        Martian microbes are discovered because they give astronauts eczema.

        Birds have escaped the dome-cities on Titan and survive. The researchers have to figure out if it’s evolution, genetic engineering, or something truly scary.

        Attempts to use hyperspace destroy chloroplasts, but no other organelles. No one knows why, but it’s stopped interstellar colonization.

        A giant spell-jewel has been discovered. It it so ancient that no one knows what spell it is, but it’s still live and can be triggered. A fringe cult would like to trigger it.

        1. You give birth to a clone of yourself that reaches full maturity in thirty days, which gives you thirty days to find out what is going on and fight the ones disrupting your life, killing the clone or keeping it or being killed by it as a matter of choice and voice. Maybe in the voice of the clone.

      4. A man owns a magical invisiblity ring — or cloak or cap — from his old adventures, and a mischievous nephew steals it from him and goes to use it to play pranks in the Wide World. The man and young friends, and old fellow adventurers chase after.

        A magical stone is purported to tell what is true and what is false. One day, a youngster puts a true/false question to it: do you always turn black for false and white for truth? It turns black. Much consternation.

        lawyer sues ghosts for trespass.

        superhero students slack off. Disaster follows. Training from hell follows that.

        Such is the Labyrinth; a single door for a single soul, which closes up after a single entry. No one knows if the opening door will lead to the same place.

    3. I have some concepts sitting around, ’cause I’ve had no time since reading Swain a while back. But I have no time for NaNo this year, I think.

    4. How would someone discover, through elasticity, that there are really four dimensions?

      What could the next world war be like?

      How extreme could you make LitRPG and deathworld elements in a dungeon crawling isekai before readers lost interest?

      Sakura Wars, Irregular at Magic School, Seraph of the End

    5. Some people don’t have to have an idea, and can pants all the way.

      Me, I need to make sure I don’t rush the outline.

      I’ve got one possible one in hand, and one that’s still working its way towards the end.

      I’ve never signed up, but I’ve only failed once when I decided to do it. I can rely on knocking it out IF I don’t experiment with something new.

  5. I gave up on NaNoWriMo several years back, after I got tired of the drama. And the drama seems about the same, whether I told everyone, only one person, or no one at all, that I was doing it.

    Though, since I’ve been working on my current book for about three years now, and haven’t actually finished anything since college, maybe I ought to reconsider it.

    1. As often as not, I avoid all the forums, once i got together with some local writers, which was good for motivation, but maxed out my supply of sociability.

      Last year we started the facebook page, and that was more than enough support for me.

    1. It’s a change of pace. And if you feel burned out with what you’re doing, pick at least a different sub-genre. Do something different.

        1. But don’t do it my way!!! My husband injured his hand, and I wound up being his chauffeur, with hours and hours of time to kill in Dr.s waiting rooms and especially during physical therapy sessions. But yeah, I just whipped through Directorate School.

          And no pre-planning, just a desperate scramble for _someplace_ to start writing. “Oh look! I have all these young characters scattered around through various books! They’re all 19 to 20ish! I’ll throw them together in college and see what happens.”

      1. It’s not that I’m, “burned out,”just more that formatting (about 4 books worth now) is tedious and detail oriented, while writing is effortless and fun by comparison. I’ve got the idea for a book that I’m GONNA write, as it belongs to the series I’m doing, I just get torn between writing (fun) and FINISHING stuff for publication.

        1. Oh yes. That problem is why my white board has thirteen titles on it. Two are almost ready to go, the rest are anywhere from concept to rough draft.

  6. I checked, my NaNo name has a space, J. Pascal.

    I’m starting a new comment here because… I can’t find how to add or send an invite for a buddy. I’m sure it’s right in front of my nose but I DO NOT SEE it.


    1. I checked the FAQ. So… up at the top it says “search”… I clicked on “search” and then selected “author” and then typed in the user name… this gave me the user profile and a button that said “add as buddy” or something nicely descriptive like that.

        1. I apparently did not add you back though! It looks like each person has to add each person.

        1. To the best of my knowledge they don’t delete accounts at all. (I’ve had one since ’03.) They do a forum wipe every year, but no more site wipe since they got the funds to stabilize the site.

  7. I’ve tried it twice, with mixed results.

    The first time, I started brainstorming and prepping around Labor Day. Mid-September I had the basic ideas flushed out, but then I wanted to write it! Three-and-a-half weeks later, I’d finished with 70k words, but it was still October.

    The next time, I left the brainstorming late, and I didn’t have a real concept until after Thanksgiving, but then I went on to write almost 120k words of novel by mid-January. (Minus a major chapter that I couldn’t figure out how to write and skipped.) That one was weird — I had a three-act novel vaguely outlined, and never made it to act two.

    It would be fun to actually write one in November, this year, along with everyone else. But I’ve left it late again — no fleshed-out concept.

    1. You’ve got eleven days . . .

      Yeah, I’ve got the idea . . . and it doesn’t like this waiting stuff . . . I could write just a tiny bit . . .

  8. I’ve read thru what I could find on the NaNoWriMo site without actually signing up, and I have a question. What in this context is a writing buddy? What do writing buddies do for each other? Thanks!

    1. Writing buddies essentially allow you to apply peer pressure / support on a smaller scale than local area / national. For example, “Dagnabit, YYY got another 2400 words up already? It’s only 8am! I better get cracking!” or “So I missed three days from sick… well, XXX is behind, too, but she just got 200 words up today. I can do that. Got to put something up, even if it’s 15 words, just so my acquaintances can’t see me skipping today…”

    2. The buddy page just shows each person and their progress bar. I think that all profile pages are public so I *think* that a person could just go look at whatever whoever is doing, but your buddies are on a page to see everyone’s progress more or less all at once.

      For me, there’s a little bit of peer pressure, though I’m really *really* good at ignoring that. (A lifetime of practice.) But mostly I like to see what people are doing and feel like I’m not all alone.

      In theory a person would notice who’s going gangbusters and who’s slowing down and send messages of praise and encouragement. In theory. 😉

  9. A) The forums have (in the past) had a “Plot Bunny Adoption Page” space. Where that killer idea that you just can’t write about right now can go, and someone who is stuck can adopt it, give it a good home and write a Best-Selling-Novel from it.

    B) Writing 50K words isn’t that hard. FINISHING is. I love the graphs, the badges, the forums. But Nov 30 rolls around and I’ve met Goal and…. progress stops. GRRR. Don’t do that.

    C) Find what works for you. I voice dictate, and transcribe with Dragon, and can do 1500-2000 word in a commute. Until I get so into the story that I miss my turn-off by 3 miles. Oops.

    Above all – HAVE FUN!

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