The Pre-NaNo Panic

As I type this, there are 8 days left until the start of NaNoWriMo.

I’m not ready.

​A few weeks ago, I settled on a project to work on, and since then, I’ve pieced together a vague plot and come up with a protagonist (who I spent way too much time choosing the perfect name for). And that’s about it.

Last year, by October 31, I had completed in-depth character sketches for everyone from my main characters to the one-trick ponies, nearly 15,000 words of outlining, and detailed descriptions of every planet my characters would set foot on. 

But you know what? When the clock struck midnight, ushering in those frenzied 30 days of writing, I still felt paralyzed. Despite all my preparation, I didn’t know where to start. This, in my mind, is the glory of NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t care if you’re ready. It doesn’t care if you are a planner, a pantser, or something in between. On November 1, you write 1,667 words. Period.

I am incredibly grateful for this exterior framework of urgency. As a planner, I think I sometimes use preparation as a crutch (I even wrote a post on the official NaNo blog about this a couple years ago). If it were up to me, I’d plan and plan and plan… but I’d never actually get to the writing part. With the wind of November at my back and an entire community of people cheering me on, somehow this task that for most of the year seems impossible—writing 50,000 words of a novel—becomes an inevitability.

I’ve considered myself a “writer” since the 3rd grade, but I never finished a large project until the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010. Since then, I’ve won six times, come close a couple more. Each time, whether I’ve gone in with no idea what I’m going to write about or am armed with an entire book bible, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone in the best ways. I’ve learned to think on my feet, make quick decision, and write my way through, over, and around plot holes. 

All this to say, if the thought of the blank page terrifies you: good. NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to tear down the wall blocking the road to a finished novel, brick by brick, word by word.

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