NaNo Tips No. 26: Giving Thanks

Only four more days of NaNoWriMo to go, and I’m noticing that a lot of people are beating up on themselves. They haven’t met their deadlines. They haven’t got enough words. Their words aren’t good enough. The muse is missing! Etc, etc.

Welcome to the wonderful world of being a writer.

At every level, writers beat up on themselves. If they’re not published yet, then that’s their source of grief. If they are published, then they aren’t selling enough, well reviewed enough, or haven’t won enough awards. If they are award-winning bestsellers, their publisher makes them tour all the time. And because they’re touring all the time, they’re too tired and sick to write.

Oh, the woe that it is to be a writer. Even the successful ones are miserable.

So let us do the Pollyanna thing. Here am I, an Australian in the United States of America, enjoying the local official Polyanna day (known as Thanksgiving). Now this is a day with a very troubled history, but one cool aspect of Thanksgiving is that it’s a national day given over to talking about what you’re thankful for.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo may discover that you’re thankful that you have the time, resources and support to spend the month of November trying to write a novel. There are plenty of people without any of those things.

So you may not have 44,000 words. You may only have 5,000. But that’s still 5,000 more than you had on the first of November. And to quote one of my favorite songs, “From little things, big things grow.”

I did not finish the first novel I attempted to write. Or the second, or the third, or the . . . I’ve lost count how many.

But eventually I finished a novel. It remains unpublished, but I’m thankful that I wrote it, because it’s the foundation that all my later novels are built upon.

So what if you don’t get a novel finished in November? There are plenty more months where this one came from. You’ve proven that you can write, given a little bit of structure and a hundred thousand people writing along with you. Soon you can have a go at writing on your own.

Be thankful for the work you have done this month. Clutch it to your chest.


  1. Alberto Lung on #

    Hi Justine. I love your blog. I had a terrible writing week and wanted to ask you something:

    How much of what you write (on your first draft, first sit) actually stays in the book?

    I found that every time i open my word document and it comes up on the first page i fell sick of how “overwritten” some of the stuff happens to be.

    Some things like “Light came into the room invading the space of darkness” Fells way too much when what i really want to say is “He opened the window”

    (ps. sorry if my English sucks i am Brazilian… i write in Portuguese.)

  2. Angieanything on #

    That’s brilliant advice. Be thankful that we are blessed with the ability to write. I’ve only got about 20k, but it’s a good 20k and I’m happy with it.

  3. Addy-la on #

    Okay… if you say so!!!

  4. Philip on #

    I know I won’t finish my book by next Monday. Hell, I didn’t finish part 1 until Tuesday morning. Even if I write 1,667 each day in December I probably won’t finish. The characters keep getting away from me, no matter what I do to try to keep the story on track.

    But I am thankful that NaNoWriMo provided me a structure to keep to that actually worked. Every time I’ve come up with a story or a series idea I’ve approached it as if I need to have everything set up and in line before I did any serious work. Have the characters developed, have every twist and turn of the plot planned out, have the themes determined.

    With my novel here, I just dived in. I had some ideas for the story and the characters, but I’m on a different route entirely. I’ll get to where I wanted to be when I started, but I’m taking the scenic route. It’s the word count, trying to have something tangible done, that keeps me going. Because even though I’m going to do so much trimming and editing later, I’m at least building up something. I have over 40K right now and I’ll hit 50K by Monday midnight no problem. Then I’ll keep going to 60K and 70K and on it goes until I’m done.

  5. Katie-wa on #

    I am thankful that God has given me a talent for writing and has filled my head with lots of amazing stories. I am thankful that it is possible to share those stories with others. I am thankful that I learn everyday to write better. I am thankful for other writers to learn from. I am thankful for the joy that writing and the community of writers can be.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. kai charles on #

    Justine you rock! it’s so true I never realised what ita gift it is to have the Time and tools to write some many people don’t ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kristan on #

    Great advice. I am thankful for my 14k words. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy thanksgiving!

  8. wandering-dreamer on #

    I am glad that I discovered this event since it gives me the motivation I need to sit down and write. In fact, if I was to look at that website in July I would probably be struck with the sudden urge to start writing for a few hours straight. And thanks to you and Scott for giving out the useful (and sometime quirky) tips that make this just a little bit easier and bit more interesting. Happy turkey day y’all!

  9. Addy-la on #

    Im so thankful For my 30k! Im just glad i got this much! Thanks for all the tips they make all the difference!

  10. Sandy Shin on #

    This is such a wonderful advice, especially this:

    “Those of you doing NaNoWriMo may discover that youโ€™re thankful that you have the time, resources and support to spend the month of November trying to write a novel. There are plenty of people without any of those things.”

    So very true.

  11. Sarah Allen on #

    Thanks for this! I’m not doing NaNo this year because I’m working on something that I feel I need to take slower then that, but this is still very applicable. Everyone feels that things aren’t working out for them at some point, and its good to be thankful for the times that it does. So thanks! (my creative writing blog)

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