NaNoWriMo? No. PeNoWriWe!

As you may know, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place in November each year. All over the world people try to write 1667 words a day, every day, with the aim of having a 50,000 word draft by the end of the month. The event, which has been running for more than a decade, now attracts more than 200,000 participants each year.

I tend to be a very slow writer – my first two novels each took around four years to write, so the idea of getting a sizeable portion of a novel down in a month was very appealing to me. I was thinking seriously about committing to NaNo in 2012 but when my novel, Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, was scheduled for release on November 1st, I thought my energies would be better spent on promotion in that month instead. Still, the idea of NaNo haunted me.

I decided to apply the principals of NaNo to a single week. I arranged to stay with a friend who has a writer’s studio on his beautiful property in Cowaramup, in WA’s south-west. Free from the normal round of domestic duties and parenting, with a self-imposed ban on social media, I set myself the goal of writing 10,000 words in 5 days. I called it PeNoWriWe (Personal Novel Writing Week).

I wrote for the first time using Scrivener, a software program designed specifically for writers. One of its features is that it allows you to set a target for each writing session. As I came closer to my target each day, a bar in a little pop-up box in the corner of my screen went from red to amber to green.


Having a visual representation of my progress towards my target was much more motivating than simply seeing the word count go up and it kept me sitting at my desk after I normally would have given up. (I was a little disappointed that nothing happened when I hit the target – I wanted a little animated dude to come out and play a trumpet fanfare or something; maybe they can consider that for the next version).


the view from my desk

I learnt some interesting things about myself during PeNoWriWe. One is that it takes me a while to get rolling. Most mornings I wrote only 500 words, whereas in the afternoons I wrote three times that much. The other thing I learnt is that when I really push myself, and, if I can eliminate all distractions, I am capable of writing 2000 words a day.  Yes! I hit my target and wrote the entire first chapter of my new novel Ciudad.

Your turn: Have you ever taken part in NaNoWriMo or something similar? Or have you ever squirreled yourself away to get a creative project off the ground? Are you motivated by little glowing bars in a pop-up window? Or does it take something more to keep your nose to the grindstone? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Want more?

Remembering How to Write or Bookish Goals for 2013

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