The Seven Stages of NaNoWriMo

The time has come to unleash your literary genius and pen (or type) the novel that is destined to be both a critical darling and a national bestseller. You’ve cleaned off your desk, created your writing playlist, stocked up on tea or coffee (or booze…whatever works for you), bid a fond farewell to your family and friends, and now it’s go time.

Based on my experience over the last three years of participation, I have identified seven distinct stages of NaNoWriMo:

1.    Pre-NaNo, aka The Possibilities Are Endless!

What a fantastic idea, this National Novel Writing Month! First you think: I’ve always thought I had a novel in me but could never find the time, or Perhaps this will force me to stop editing the same sentence over and over again and actually put some new #%*&ing words down on the page. Then you muse: What’s 30 days on the grand scale of things anyway?  Which leads you to declare: The world needs another teen vampire love story! Let’s do this thing!

2.    Week One, aka I Can Totally Do This!

During Week One, my mind is bursting with ideas and the words fly from my fingertips with minimal effort. All day at work, I look forward to going home and getting back to writing. My storyline is full of promise; my characters are quirky and cool. I am kicking ass on a daily basis and the fiction world is my bitch. Bring it!

3.    Week Two, aka What the #%*& Was I Thinking?!


The Aged White Cheddar is my personal favorite.

I don’t have the statistics, but I’m willing to bet that the biggest NaNo exodus comes during Week Two. By now, you’ve had enough time to write yourself into some literary corners, and you’ve begun to resent your characters for being too boring or mean or stupid. Dark thoughts creep unbidden into your psyche: Who did I think I was fooling? This plot is completely implausible and the characters suck! I’m not a writer, I’m a fraud! You haven’t done laundry or been to the gym in a week and your favorite TV shows are piling up on the DVR. Anyway, what’s so wrong about spending an evening on the couch watching the House Hunters International marathon and inhaling a bag of Pirate’s Booty?

4.    Week Three, aka Over the Hump

BUT if you can get through Week Two, it’s all downhill from here. Sort of. Hitting the halfway mark inspires renewed determination to soldier on. Beside, you’d feel awful leaving your characters to rot in that locked basement, or trapped on a rock at sea, or brokenhearted by their moody supernatural boyfriends.

5.    Week Four, aka The Final Week High

Lack of sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, and adult conversation evokes an ecstatic dream state as you draw ever closer to victory. For me, Week Four writing is the most fluid and also the most satisfying. I am gleefully entrenched in a world of my creation and have come to care deeply about the fate of my characters. And just like when reading a good book, I am fascinated to discover how it’s all going to come together in the end.

6.    The Final Two Days, aka The Sprint

There’s always going to be some asshole who shows everyone up by cranking out 50, 60 or even 75K words well before the November 30th deadline, yet I suspect that the majority of the NaNoWriMo population needs – and takes – every last minute up until midnight. In 2012, I was able to ride the Final Week High right through to an early finish, and spent those last two bonus days feeling both giddy and clever, as if I had successfully gate-crashed a fancy party and no one realized I wasn’t supposed to be there.

7.    Post-NaNo, aka The Love Haze

As with childbirth and other traumatic life events, on December 1st our brains take pity on us and quickly expunge the memories of our darkest moments of doubt. We conveniently forget the psychological labor pains; otherwise we’d never be able to do it again next year. Within a few days of completion, we think only lovingly of the literary children and scenarios we birthed, like remembering good times with old friends.

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6 thoughts on “The Seven Stages of NaNoWriMo

  1. Sally Mellinger says:

    Lisa, this should be your story. Send it to a publisher when you are finished and I’ll bet it would be published. As far as I’m concerned, you are a brilliant writer. Well, Thursday is Halloween so I guess you begin on Friday. Get lots of sleep and eat well this week!

    I look forward to the next update. Sally

  2. MariNaomi says:

    This almost makes me want to do NaNoWriMo. Almost.

  3. […] the dreaded Week Two! Until a couple of days ago — as predicted (see The Seven Stages of NaNoWriMo) — I was riding the fine line between glory and failure. All of those lovely words that […]

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