The value of #NaNoWriMo for academic writers

November is  #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – or the academic writer’s equivalent of #AcWriMo.

If you are not familiar with this – what lies behind these hashtags is a community that aims to get writers to commit to writing the draft of a novel -around 50,000 words – in the month of November.

It is, of course, a lot more flexible than that – some edit – and you don’t have to write the designated 50k target. Some are writing academic journal articles, books, grant proposals and so on.

The main point is that by joining in, you are making a commitment to prioritise your writing – and to seek support from a community of writers.

Joining in & dipping in and out

I have engaged with the #AcWri thread on many occasions over the years.

My first real engagement with #NaNoWriMo was last year when I finally admitted to myself that I really, really wanted to write that novel that had been percolating in my head for about 15 years!

I wrote a lot – just over 35, 000 words.

However, I was not as engaged with the process as I could have been – I was trying it out. I was in a very different place with my life and writing in 2018.

Why I do #NaNoWriMo

This year, my life and writing are in a drastically different place.

Firstly, I’m six months into my new career and life as a self-employed small business owner. I’m not doing #AcWriMo.

Secondly, while I am still unwell with chronic pain and illness, I no longer feel as mentally ill as I did last year when I was signed off from my old job with chronic stress and fatigue and pain.

My headspace and focus are gradually coming back to me in the aftermath of burnout. Recovery is slow, but it is certainly happening.

Thirdly, I have written most of the second draft of my first novel.

After dipping my toe in and out of NaNoWriMo last year, I really committed to my creative writing and signed up for a 6 month novel writing course.

I invested serious time and cash into my self and future career. I’m starting this #NaNoWriMo with a serious, clear plan and some fantastic feedback to work with.

Should we be aiming to write every day?

I have tried to write everyday for many years.

I usually fail.

It is not always possible to write everyday when you are busy and if you have other responsibilities and/or illness. Or, you simply want to have a break.

There. I’ve said it and broken the first ‘rule’ of productive writing.

But, breaks are good. Breaks are crucial.

Reading, thinking, mulling, pondering, scribbling, doodling, cutting and pasting, making a vision board, doing research. Staring into the middle distance.

Writing is more than words on a page.

I’m trying #NaNoWriMo – and to write every day – because sometimes that is what suits. I’ve a less stressful month. I want to spend time finishing this draft.

Write to your own rhythm

So, give it a go. If it works for you, fab. If not, you have not lost anything.

You will have gained a few words, ideas, writer friends.

And that’s the key – while the headline might be ‘write 50k words in a month’ – the reality is, #NaNoWriMo is what you need it to be.


Do you know your best writing practice?

If you struggle to prioritise your writing time, or find yourself stuck when you do, you might find my self-directed e-workbook useful. ‘Journalling for Academic Writers’ is designed to get you understanding your here and how, your why, and how you need to practice your writing. Available to purchase and download via my webpage. 

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