I have been entering a novel writing contest almost every year since 2011. This is my second year winning!

NanoWrimo is the National Novel Writers Month put on by nanowrimo.org whose main premise is that I am too busy to write the novel of my dreams, but, if I just write for 30 days in the month of November, I can complete the novel of my discipline.

What I love about NanoWriMo is that it gives me the motivation to at least try and also an opportunity to join with others who are also too busy to write a novel, but who would use November as a time to force themselves into at least writing 50,000.

50,000 words is a little over 1,666 words per day. For me, it usually means an hour to an hour and a half of typing at the keyboard. I do sometimes fluff up my word count by taking contraction words and separating them like “can’t” which is one word and make it “can not” which is two words. It reads funny, but it’s perfectly okay for the purposes of this contest.

This year I did do more planning going into November. I first decided that the story would be a period piece from the 1980’s which is the era I grew up in. That made it a little easier and even though it’s no Stranger Things, I could draw upon my own experience.

I also had a clear beginning and middle. I knew what was going to be the turning points, so you can say that I had a loose outline.

I also, put up some butcher paper and started writing down the main points, interactions, music of the era and other relevant items.

Spotify Inspiration

Up to the time, I also went to Spotify and listened to a playlist of hits from 1985 (which is the setting for the first part of my character’s adventure. I then listened closely to get saturated with the popular culture. I also did some key research on the time because I knew there were things that were happening around the world that I had no clue about. I was fifteen years old and I lived in a big city so my vantage point was small believe it or not. I thought what was happening in my big city was happening everywhere else.

This really helped me tap into memories and I began my first 3,000 words basically re-living my daily routine of getting to high school. It was a struggle as I try to capture what I was feeling and having it make story-sense. It didn’t. There are too many moments in our lives that don’t carry meaning. It was like writing about the blood cells flowing through my veins — super important but not enjoyable to read.

I took a turn in my writing when I decided to tell the story about a character that wasn’t like me but was living in a setting that was like my life.  It turned the direction of my writing and I was able to write better.

NanoWrimo is a Community

A major reason why I enjoy and participate in NanoWriMo is the idea of community. You aren’t writing alone and you can come together to encourage one another to write more. Remember, the key to NanoWriMo’s philosophy is that you can write a Novel if you can write 50,000 words, your goal is the word count.

For me, the community was my family. Esther and Josiah also participated in NanoWriMo and we checked in with each other on how we were making progress.


Writing and Exploring Barnes & Noble

A really exciting time in November 2018’s writing contest was a four hour event that Esther prepared for us at Barnes & Noble.

We had a blast, finding authors, finding interesting opening lines, books with one word pages and other fun things.

Night of Writing 2018

Here are some of my answers:

1. Most interesting opening line

“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.” It by Stephen King.

2. A book with a one word title

Becoming by Michelle Obama

3. A book written by an author with the letter “X” in their name.

Felix J. Palma author of “Map of Time”

4. A book with more than 500 pages

Eldest with 1153 pages

5. Most outrageous character name

Patina by Jason Reynolds

6. A book that has won the John Newbery Medal

BUD, Not BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis

The night was a great time and it really helped keep the fire burning to make my 50,000 word count.


Night of Writing at Barnes & Noble

4:00 – 4:30 > Word Sprint (3 Rounds)

4:30 – 4:40 > Break

4:40 – 5:00 > Word Sprint Story Objects (2 Rounds)

5:00 – 5:10 > Break

5:10 – 5:25 > Writing Dare (Random)

5:25 – 5:35 > Break

5:35 – 5:50 > Writing Dare (Selected)

5:50 – 6:00 > Choose Sharing Selection

6:00 – 6:45 > Dinner (@Lime)

6:45 – 7:15 > B&N Scavenger Hunt

7:15 – 8:00 > Share/Discuss Excerpts

The Longest Mile: 45,000 to 50,000

It was a joy to get to 45,000 words, but those last 5,000 would take some work. If I was writing a novel like a regular person, word count wouldn’t be my only or most pressing goal. With this contest, the discipline and sense of completion is the prize.

I didn’t want to fluff my way through and I didn’t even feel like I was half way through the story that I was telling. In fact, a major plot twist wasn’t even in sight and I was hitting 48,000 words.

I had to trust the process. Even though I did not have an end to my story, my novel efforts, were satisfied at 50,000 (plus a little extra).

I really enjoyed and look forward to next year’s November National Novel Writers Month and I may just start writing from where I left off.

Interested in writing and want to complete your first novel in a month, visit NaNoWrimo.org to learn more.

Interested in reading an excerpt of what I wrote, well you can here, working title “As Above, So Below“.