Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Why I’m Doing NaNoWriMo Again (Even Though I Hated It The First Time)

Am I a sucker?

A glutton for punishment?

Someone with too much time on their hands?

Probably yes to all except the last one.

But that’s not why I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo (and which I personally call ‘NaNu NaNu’. I’m sure I’m not the only one).

Last year was my first in the trenches.

And I hated it. Hated it with a capital H. Hell, I’d use all caps if it wouldn’t make it seem like I was screaming at you.

I know how to write a novel. Not to belittle the accomplishment, but I’ve done it more than a few times. I already know I can finish what I start.

So why NaNoWriMo?

I’ve read those pretentious posts–and if you’re a writer and at all interested in this kind of thing, I’m sure you have too. You know, the ones that suggest that National Novel Writing Month is just for beginners, for people who “don’t know how” to write a book.

Bullshit, I say.

I’m sure it’s helpful for beginners too, but they’re not the only ones who can take something positive away from the experience.

Writing 1667 words per day doesn’t seem like much, and if you want to write for a living, it probably shouldn’t seem like much.

But I don’t normally write during the weekends. And if something really amazing comes up, I rarely turn it down in order to write. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I have headaches. Sometimes I have way too much journalism work to do.

That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo. For this one shining month, there are no excuses. You must write, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if life intrudes. You just tell life to back the hell up so you can get your words in.

It’s torture, yes, but there’s also something freeing about it.

I had about a week left of NaNoWriMo last year when a dear friend took his own life. The last thing I wanted to do was write. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, and sometimes I did.

But the looming deadline forced me to press on. My friend’s death was devastating, but I told myself I did not need to feel like a failure on top of everything else I was going through.

So I finished. I wrote the 50,000 required words. I wasn’t finished my novel, but it didn’t take me too long to write the last 10,000 words–a decent length for a young adult thriller.

When I read it over, I was surprised. It was good. It wasn’t the piece of crap all those snobby NaNu NaNu articles had led me to believe. Even my editor liked it, and trust me–he’s picky.

I’m a writer. I write a lot. But I can’t look back at any other month in the past year and say, “I wrote a novel that month.”

Which is why I’m taking the plunge once more.

The end justifies the means.

Do you participate in NaNoWriMo, or is there another challenge you take part in or train for? What are the value of these types of challenges for you? Of course, if you hate them, feel free to say that too!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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  1. Crystal Collier

    Awesome. I think for young writers it’s actually less helpful. My first year was awful too, but the book I finished got all kinds of requests…even though it has yet to see the light of day…because I wouldn’t let it go…because it was awful. Thankfully I’ve come to November a little better prepared. We’ll see how it goes. We may both shake our fists at the computer and swear in our wrath, “NEVER AGAIN.” We may both come away happy and ready to go at it again next year. Best of luck to you!

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks, Crystal. Welcome back to my blog! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who decided to go back for more punishment.

      Good luck to you! I wish you an awesome book.

  2. E. Arroyo

    Sorry about your friend. I participated last year and loved it! It allowed me to write with a firm end goal in mind. And that book was well received by my publisher and will be published this week! I agree. It’s not only for newbies.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks for the kind words, E. And congrats on your NaNoWriMo success! That’s awesome.

      Writing is so isolating that coming up with ways to build a sense of community is always a good thing.

  3. Michelle Wallace

    You wrote a novel in a month. That’s definitely a reason to take the plunge once again. But rather you than me.
    The thought of writing 1,600 words a day terrifies me. But after reading a few posts by IWSG’ers who are doing NaNo, I’ve realised that I’m letting the numbers blind me to everything else…
    There are also other benefits. Of course, it goes without saying that completing the 50 000 within the month would be the cherry on top…so maybe one day I’ll take the plunge. We’ll see.
    Good luck!

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks for writing, Michelle. One thing NaNoWriMo has helped me discover (or rediscover) is how beneficial it is for me to write everyday.

      I’ve been struggling with a low-grade depression (not serious enough for medication, just the blues) since I came back from China, and even more so since I returned from a writers’ conference. To leave all those wonderful people and that sense of camaraderie behind and return to working alone was tough.

      Since I started writing another novel, the blues are gone. The loneliness is gone. And that is more important to me than the end results, or winning the contest, but I have to say–the feeling you get when your word count is verified and you “win” is AWESOME.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Diane Burton

    What an uplifting post. You just proved that even in bad times writers keep writing. I’m so sorry about your friend. That’s hard to deal with. I’m not sure I could have kept going with NaNo after that. You are awesome.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Diane. It was really, really tough. I wasn’t sure I could keep going, either, but I couldn’t handle failing at that point. (I know lots of writers say giving up on NaNo isn’t failing, but I would have thought of it that way.)

      I kept thinking that my friend wouldn’t want me to give up on my dreams because of him. That’s the last thing he would have wanted. That helped keep me going.

  5. Samantha Dunaway Bryant

    I’m participating again this year, too. I look at it as a justification for a selfish time grab. If I’m doing NaNoWriMo, and “it’s just for a month,” then I can shirk some of housely, momly, and wifely expectations for a few weeks and write my fingers off. I “won” last year . . .and have since finished a first draft of that novel. I have high hopes for this year’s too.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      That’s awesome, Samantha! Good luck to you this year as well. I’m loving all these success stories.

      I know what you mean, but taking time to follow your passion isn’t selfish. If you’re doing something that makes you happy and more fulfilled, you’ll be a better mom and wife. The housework? Eh, it’s never done, is it? It can keep waiting. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Elizabeth Hein

    I agree that Nano is not just for newbies, although I have met some awesome young people at my local write-ins. They make me feel good about the future. This will be my fourth year and I love the enthusiasm of the Nano community. I find it refreshing, kind of like a long swim in a cold lake.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Congrats, Elizabeth! Four years is a real accomplishment–good for you.

      I haven’t been able to make it to any in-person events yet, but I’m sure they’re a lot of fun.

      Thanks for commenting, and good luck to you this year.

  7. Shannon Lawrence

    I must give you credit for finishing after your tragedy. Two years ago, I found out about a week from the end that my dad was dying and I absolutely didn’t care whatsoever about NaNo. I do my own version now, set the goals that matter to me, and I like it. But I also encourage others to do NaNo proper, because I think it can benefit everyone in some way. I use my personal version to kick my own butt into gear these days. And I’ll likely do the real thing again in the future. Just not yet.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Sorry to hear, Shannon. I really didn’t care about it, either…just needed to have some good news, even if it was finishing a challenge.

      Good for you for coming up with your own version. I think that’s awesome! Whatever gets you writing is a good thing.

      Thanks for commenting, and welcome to my blog.

  8. Steven

    I think there’s a value in dashing out that rough draft quickly. Mine always suck, big time, so the less time I spend on it the better. Then I can get down to the real work of turning that shitty manuscript into something workable. Still, I’m not doing NaNo because November is always way too busy for me.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Me too, Steven. I wish it was in January. Of course, that’s a nice month to take a vacation…

      And on it goes.

      Thanks for commenting! I find the momentum really helpful. It’s when I take long breaks during a draft that I have issues.

  9. Phyl Campbell

    Argh — did my comment not post? I really don’t like this aspect of Blogspot.
    Sorry — I did share this post on G+.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      It had some weird UPS spam attached to it. Thanks for sharing.

      You’ll be happy to know I’m getting my own website! So my days on Blogger are numbered.

  10. Mary Aalgaard

    Good for you to jump back into it. The challenge and the deadline are wonderful motivators. Let the negatives eat their own words. So sorry about your friend. Depression is so hard to understand.
    Play off the Page

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      I’m finding the same about the deadline, Mary. I’m able to take it a lot more seriously than my own deadlines.

      Thanks for commenting, and for the kind words. I miss my friend terribly, but I also know how much pain he must have been in at the time. <3

  11. Susan Scott

    Go gal!!! No, I’m not participating and didn’t last year – maybe next year. I take my hat off to you and all those taking part in this HUGE challenge.

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks so much, Susan. You’re a sweetheart.

  12. Georgina Morales

    You go, girl! NaNo is a huge undertaking and I just don’t have the chance to dedicate the amount of hours to my writing that I’d need to get even close to the final numbers. I admire all of you who take the plunge and do it with such a positive attitude. This was made for you! =)

    • J.H. Moncrieff

      Thanks, Georgina! I had a really negative attitude about it last year…I kicked and screamed and whined the entire time. But I’m facing it with more optimism this year.

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. I still think you could do it, but I understand it’s not for everyone.

      Welcome to my blog, and thanks for commenting!

  13. Doreen McGettigan

    Good Luck! I’m editing this month so no nano for me but I intend to participate next year.
    It is good practice to write no matter what.


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