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Why National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Works For Me, by Helene Young

Hi, my name’s Helene and I’m an addict.

There, I’ve said it. I’m an addict who’s hooked on writing and creating stories. I’m addicted in a way that has me reaching for the light in the small hours of the morning, dragging a t-shirt over my head and heading for the office, just as surely as a smoker fumbles for a cigarette first thing.

It’s an affliction I’ve had for most of my life, but in the last ten years it’s become all consuming. Writing rules my life – just ask my family.

Novembers are particularly difficult. November is NaNoWriMo and last year I again joined hundreds of thousands of writers around this planet striving to complete the challenge. No one’s making me do it – no one’s holding a gun to my head – but I line up to be part of it. Every one of my published books started life as a NaNo project, so it works for me.

So what is it? National Novel Writing Month is a community of writers, both online and in face-to-face groups, who commit to writing fifty thousand words in November.

Fifty thousand words in thirty days equates to one thousand, six hundred and sixty-six per day. Easy, right? Yes, provided you write every day… My flying roster is unpredictable so I know by the last week of November I’ll be trying to write five thousand words a day to catch up. What I’ve discovered during the NaNo process is that intense writing provides some of my clearest work.

There’s something almost cathartic about sitting alone and typing for an entire day without interruption. The words flow, the ideas become almost stream of consciousness and the story rockets along. When I’m editing I can identify the passages I’ve written on those last few days because I rarely need to do too much to them.

Those last days are also the ones when sitting on my backside for eight hours will leave me energized and on a high – no need for a glass of champagne or a long walk to finish the day!

NaNo proves to me that I write best under pressure. I need a deadline – even a self-imposed limit – to keep me writing and focused. It’s an integral part of my creative process. Perhaps it’s the analytical pilot side of my brain exerting some control…

As a professional writer I have to respect my publisher’s timeline and produce finished copy when it’s required. NaNo helps hone that skill a little more each year. It’s worth doing for that benefit alone.

Are you a NaNo fan? Has it influenced your work? Or do you have your own method of feeding that addiction to writing? A retreat with fellow writers? A special time when you head to your cave and write?

You’re amongst friends here so it’s safe to share.


Helene Young’s author website:

Helene Young’s bio page

Wings of FearShattered SkyBurning Lies    The Indigo SkyRotten GodsThe Fragment of Dreams

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Both my novels started as NaNo projects. House for all Seasons is out March 1. I wrote it in 2010 Nano. So I luuuuuuurve the NaNo concept. And I am an addict too. nice post.

    January 3, 2013
  2. Great to know I’m not alone, Jenn 🙂 I’ve challenged myself to write thirty thousand words by the end of this month so I hope my self imposed word count will motivate me!

    January 3, 2013
  3. Hi Helene,
    I attempted NaNo for the first time in 2012. Although I didn’t reach the summit I got down over 31,000 words. I too loved the fact that I had a deadline to work to. If not for moving house the same month I think I would have got to the 50,000. Now my book is well on the way and I’m going to impose the goal on myself in March again to reach the finish line. It’s so exciting!

    January 3, 2013
    • Congratulations, Lipgloss Mumma (love that tag!). 31,000 words is a wonderful achievement and juggling a house move in the middle would have slowed anyone down…

      There is something so empowering about giving myself permission to write, which I’m sure you must have experienced too. It takes writing out of the ‘guilty pleasure’ drawer and firmly into the middle of the room, front and centre. That way there can be no procrastinating, no slacking!

      Good luck with your March goal. I hope life gives you the space to write.

      January 3, 2013
  4. Hi Helene =)

    I started writing around a year ago, after resigning from a job I was struggling in. In between job searching and interviews, a story idea I had had floating in my head for around 5 years finally got put to paper.

    That project has stalled (though constantly whirring in the background), though I have written two short stories (and writing another now) and posted them on my WordPress account.

    I have made my challenge this year to actually participate in NaNoWriMo (my first short story wasn’t part of it due to not aiming for 50k words).

    Congrats on getting published, and fitting it around being a pilot. My father and brother are both pilots, so I have an appreciation for how eclectic the hours can be =)

    August 7, 2013

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