Let the Crazies Begin, or: Why I’m a Wrimo


“What’s the point?” someone asked the other day, when the conversation came around to NaNoWriMo. (NaNo-whatmo? you say. NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. You know, that Novemberly craziness where I, and several hundred thousand others across the globe, vanish into a deep rabbit hole of mad, bad and dangerous-to-know novelling, aiming to write a 50,000-word novel in the space of 30 days. I might have mentioned it a time or three [dozen] before.)

What’s the point, indeed. Why do this to yourself? Why engage in such a bout of insanity? And don’t get me wrong, it is insane. Every year, I get stressed to the hilt, moan and whine, say I’m not going to finish (my fellow local Wrimos can attest to that). And every year, I sign up again. This will be my seventh NaNo in a row. But why?

Grant Faulkner, the current executive director of NaNoWriMo, just wrote an excellent article about it: “How a Month of NaNoWriMo Can Lead to a Lifetime of Better Writing“. A lifetime of better writing. Or, in my case, writing at all.

If it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t be a writer. Because writing, dontcha know, is for special people. People who have talent. People who have passion, who must write or go insane. People who have grand ideas, big stories to tell – stories of adventures in far-off places, of lives lived in danger and darkness, of deep and harrowing emotions or high and lofty ideals. People who create unforgettable characters and bring them to life on the page. In other words, people not like me.

I’ve always loved stories, and as a kid in school, I was good at writing them. I even took creative writing courses in my undergrad studies, and a night class on how to write books for children. But what I learned from those classes, among other very useful things, was that I don’t have what it takes to be a novelist. I don’t have the stick-to-it-iveness to finish a whole novel, and even if I did, my ideas are kind of basic, trite. Light-weight, as it were. Not the stuff that real novels, and therefore real novelists, are made of.

And that was okay – it’s not like I was crushed or heartbroken about it; it was just a realistic estimation of my skills and abilities. I’m not one of those people who “always wanted to write a novel” – it never occurred to me that I could, because novel writing, dontcha know, is for… (see above, rinse and repeat).

Enter NaNoWriMo 2011.

I wasn’t going to “write a novel” – nah, I had no such lofty goal. All I wanted was to see if I could do this thing, could write 50,000 words in one month. I was going to have fun, and tell myself a story that I liked, and that’s all.

And you know what? I did. I wrote 50,000 words, told myself a story, and “won” my first NaNo. But that wasn’t all. When I was finished, I had a novel. A full, completed novel. And just like that, I was a writer.

Because a writer … is a person who writes.

And that’s what NaNoWriMo is about – writing.

The goal that all us crazies sign up for is to write 50,000 words. Not everyone makes that goal; in fact, not very many Wrimos do – a rough estimate is that maybe 1 in 4 reaches the full word count. But for the rest of them? They still write. Even if someone falls 40,000 words short of the goal, that means they’ve still written 10,000 words they hadn’t written before. Ten thousand words! That’s a lot of words, people. It’s about forty pages, printed out, and there’s novellas out on the market of that length.

And the reason these Wrimos wrote those words is because they signed up for it, and got caught up in the sheer enthusiasm and excitement that’s NaNoWriMo and swept along in the current of writerly excitement. Caught up just like I get caught up again, every year, for the seventh time in a row now. Surrounded by other crazies, talking titles and plots and word count tricks, sharing ideas and cheering each other on.

It doesn’t matter that those stories we write aren’t deep, or lofty, or weighty or important. They might be, but then again, they might not. They might be terrible, riddled with spelling mistakes, more full of plot holes than a broken sieve. But they are still stories, and they have been written. Written by writers.

And that is the point of NaNoWriMo: it makes me a writer. That’s why I do it, year after year.

Like I said, you don’t have to join in – by no means do you have to join in. But if, perhaps, this is something you think you might want to try – do it! Come on in, join the fun! It’s the best thing ever. And who knows, at the end you might have a novel in your hand – that’s what happened to me. And it was a game changer.

Life, the Universe, and Being a Writer. Thank you, NaNoWriMo!

The book that started it all.


12 thoughts on “Let the Crazies Begin, or: Why I’m a Wrimo”

  1. Wow, loved this! It was very inspiring!! Who knows, maybe this year I will actually do it, and if I do, it will be because of your encouragement! 🙂

    1. That would be so very awesome!! Come to the dark side, we have cookies. Muahahahah! 😀 Seriously, I’d love to have you join the crazies. It’s the best.

  2. Want to know the best/worst secret? 98% of writers feel just like you! Even with three novels under my belt, I still feel like an impostor. But the point you make is exactly right, so long as we keep writing, we are writers!

    NaNo was also my springboard to writing my first book, as you probably know. For whatever crazy reason, it worked for me, so I will remain one of the crazies with you!

    1. Yeah, that’s the cool thing, NaNo sort of snapped me out of that Imposter Syndrome thinking – or at least snaps me out long enough each time to get a novel written. Because NaNo teaches that you don’t have to write well, you just have to write.
      Another thing I love so much about NaNo is the friendships I’ve built through it – like you (okay, that was Camp Nano, but still), and Diane above. Because NaNo just, well, *works*.

  3. I am working at doing some kind of painting or design idea every day. My”studio”is still full of boxes of Peter’s books, at least one bin of Tabitha’s stuffies. But,to be fair, the living room as several bins of my clay work.

    Someone please tell me it has taken you almost a year to move in. Happy writing all.


    1. I think us creatives take longer to get our stuff in gear – so much other things to think of! Happy writing/painting/designing to you, too!

  4. I will in no way write 50,000 words. Lol. I will, however, write maybe 20,000 words, but they will most likely complete my novel. So, for me, 20,000 words will be a huge success! Also, it’s all about getting my proverbial “poop in a group.” The approach of NaNoWriMo has a way of forcing me to get organized and stay on task, so I am grateful that you introduced me. It’s made a difference. Thanks for this awesome post!

      1. Looking forward to having this novel done! Will send some editing business your way perhaps. Also, have some publishing questions. Wish you were closer. Would love to put on the kettle, sit across the table from you, and pick that enormous brain of yours for a while. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *