• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


ABCs and Ph.D.s: Novel writing

When you hear fanfare, cat-calls, whoops and whistles tonight you’ll know that’s our household celebrating the end of National Novel Writing Month (known online as NaNoWriMo.org – check it out!).

November 30, 2011

When you hear fanfare, cat-calls, whoops and whistles tonight you’ll know that’s our household celebrating the end of National Novel Writing Month (known online as NaNoWriMo.org – check it out!). At the beginning of the month, through this online program, my 12-year-old committed to writing 15,000 words towards a novel by midnight on November 30, and she’s bearing down on this deadline. A lot of those cheers you hear tonight will be me, in appreciation of how NaNoWriMo has inspired my daughter to write, write, write! Although she didn’t consistently write the daily 500 words suggested as a strategy for meeting this goal (“school just gets in the way, Mom!”) she managed to stay on track; as the month went on, this project turned into an obsession – a good one. In the last 30 days when she wasn’t writing, you could often find my daughter dancing around exuberantly sharing her latest on Jason Dull, the character she invented, and the adventures she put him through in her pages and pages of text.  Monday night she passed the 14,000 mark and she is thrilled in her realization that she’s going to make it. I credit the NaNoWriMo philosophy: it’s all about word count.  Just let the words flow – don’t look back, write as much as you can, without editing, without word-smithing, without all the work and pain of getting it just so.  This, for my daughter who tends towards perfectionism, is glorious freedom.

NaNoWriMo is not just for kids – in fact “the young writers program” that my daughter participated in is a spin off of the original adult challenge: 50,000 words in the month of November. As I laboriously re-word each sentence in this short blog, I can’t help dreaming about this mode of writing purely for productivity.  Almost three billion words have been counted up for this year’s challenge from thousands of writers, many of whom are working hard right now to finish in time.  I’ve watched NaNoWriMo develop for several years now; each time November rolls around I have considered leaping into “thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” (their motto). I wish I could tell you that I plunged into it this year, and that I too churned out the first draft of a novel.  But I did not sign up for NaNoWriMo. Through my daughter’s herculean efforts, I now have a pretty clear sense of the dedication it takes to make it through the month successfully.  How can I possibly fit such a project into a November along with everything else that needs to happen in this month?  However, my daughter’s experience, rather than underscoring the difficulty of the task, exudes a contagious, overflowing enjoyment of the process, and gratifying sense of satisfaction and achievement.  I’m inspired to try.

 (Plus, I have a significant advantage over my daughter: I can type.  Fast.  I learned in a one-semester class in 7th grade – the same age that my daughter is now – but I see no chance of this happening for her on the horizon.  Do public schools no longer teach this?  We have tried learn-to-type computer programs, but unlike me at this stage she has gotten quite good at the two-finger hunt-and-peck, and is completely unmotivated to spend the time to learn anything else.  At the beginning of this month, my daughter did her novel writing long-hand, in a spiral binder, and periodically asked me to type it in for her.  However, after long waits for me to find time to type for her, she started to type it in herself, which naturally led into typing new material directly into the computer, by-passing the spiral binder all together… not necessarily a development for the better. )

Maybe I’ll get up the courage and gumption next year to join my daughter in prioritizing November writing.  I’d like to.  And I’m curious to see whether my daughter will have an interest in going through her writing later to polish it.  That’s a whole other kettle of fish.  Hearty congratulations to any of you who managed to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year!  Or maybe you used this challenge as part of a class or in other ways?  I’d love to hear your experience! 


Back to Top