The 5 Stages of NaNoWriMo

Me~ By Abigail Owen

I have found in my NaNowWriMo experience that, much like the stages of grief, there are 5 stages of writing a book in one month. In fact, similar to grief, you may even cycle through these a few times by the end. Let’s review–

Stage 1 – Enthusiasm

Writing a book in one month sounds so exciting…before you get started. Even if you’ve done this before, you enter into the endeavor with a certain amount of optimism and even enthusiasm. I mean, how cool is it that in just 30 short days you will have a completed manuscript? The days before November 1st, you’re even itching to start. Can’t wait to get your teeth into this book! You even wake early on the first day and have five pages complete before breakfast. Writing is awesome!

Stage 2 – Complications

You started out with a bang. Those first fifty pages flew. Each day you thought, “This isn’t that hard. Why don’t I write a book in a month every time? I am totally going to finish this manuscript early!” And then… life happens along with…dun, dun, dun…the slow down.

Only a handful of writers can keep that early pace, and more power to ’em. But for the rest of us, there’s this thing called life which includes day jobs, kids, finances, errands, friends, family, and, in November, Thanksgiving. What started out as flying turns into a battle for every paragraph. You’ve been writing for an hour, check your progress, and… Wait. That can’t be right! Only two paragraphs? And it’s midnight now. What happened to five pages before breakfast?

Stage 3 – Bargaining

You’re getting your word count every day. Barely. In fact, maybe you decided to skip a day or two. Perhaps your brain needed a break to get back on track. This is when you start to bargain with yourself… I got off to such a great start, I can get by with 3 pages a day and still get close. Or…Maybe I’ll just switch books. I really have been wanting to write this other project over here. Or…There’s always next year, right?

But you don’t give in to the doubts in your head, or the weariness with the project and the pace. It has to get better. Right?

Stage 4 – Depression

We’ve all be there. Probably with every book we write. You hit that point where your internal thoughts sound something along the lines of: I’m never going to get this done. Or…I might as well quit. Or…I am the worst writer ever, and this is the worst book in existence. Or…Why did I sign up for this anyway?

But we’re too far in to quit now. Besides which, by this point we’ve told everyone we know about how we’re going to finish a book in November. What’s more, our friends and family and support groups are all there to cheer us on. And we think, “I guess I’ll slog this out.”

Keep pushing, the next stage is write around the corner (pun intended)!

Stage 5 – Acceptance & Anticipation

You hit that point where the end is in sight. Only a few more days and a few (or twenty) thousand more words and you’ve done it. Finished a book in a month. Like the marathoner who kept just a tiny bit in reserve to pick up the pace at the end, you get your second wind and the words start flying a gain. That spark you started the month with returns, only now you’re closer to the end.

You know there will be MAJOR revisions after all is said and done. You know that the hard work of 2nd drafts and editing is upon you. But the bones of your story are there. And now you’re ahead of schedule because, usually, it takes a LOT longer to get that first draft on paper than just 1 month.

Just know that there is an end in sight. Finally, the day will come when you finish. You type that 50,000th word and your hands shoot into the air. Wahoo!!! And your family is grateful because you’ve been nonexistent for 30 days. And you are filled with pride at your accomplishment. You look back on your NaNoWriMo experience, high on endorphins, and think, “That wasn’t so bad. I think I’ll do this again next year.”

To all you NaNoWriMo contenders in 2015…best of luck. I think you’re pretty awesome for even signing up. Keep pushing. I hope to see you at the finish line!

I would love to hear from you, and even offer some words of encouragement if needed. So tell me, which stage are you in at the moment?

Award-winning author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado, and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe.

Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.

7 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of NaNoWriMo”

  1. This year has been awful as far as production is concerned. This is my 13th year, and this is the first year where I am ready to give up. I don’t want to give up. People are counting on me. My 2009 NaNoNovel is my first book with Wild Rose Press, “Fairest of the Faire.” I wanted to get a second book done in November. It’s going so poorly. I’m so disappointed and ashamed of myself!

    To be fair, I am a second-year ML (Municipal Liaison) for my region, which keeps me busy with getting out emails, making sure everyone is on track, keeping the confidence-boosters going out. I just had my big conference that happens every November, and this year I presented one half-day session and one regular session. So a lot of writing went into that. But I’ve done that before, and did okay. So I don’t know what is different this year. I’m hoping I can catch up. It will require 30K words in the next 10 days. Ugh.

  2. This is my eighth year of NaNo, although I only finished the last three. All the others were half hearted attempts that Complications got in the way. But once I figured out I could finish, I have. So I have faith, despite being in the Bargaining stage right now. Or as I like to call it, Hot Mess.

    1. Knowing you can finish is half the battle!

      I’m somewhere between bargaining and depression at the moment. I skipped to the end and started writing backward. Good luck and keep pushing!

  3. Abigail,

    This is my sixth year of NaNo and I’ve cycled through all five already (11 days in) But keep plugging along. Nano has provided me with two published books and hopefully this year will do the same. Good Luck with your word count, I’m almost caught up again, but….. Stage 5 is my favorite. We got this!

  4. Abigail – this is my fourth NaNo year – all three of the past books have been published, so here’s to # 4!> I agree with your 5 stages, and stage 5 is my favorite! Good luck with the word count. My thought is always this: even if I don’t get to the 50,000 words by 11/30, at least I’ve written everyday, written something everyday, and know I’ll keep n writing everyday. Be well, Peg Jaeger

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