Blog The Writing Process What’s It Like to Do NaNoWriMo? Here’s One Author's Diary

What’s It Like to Do NaNoWriMo? Here’s One Author's Diary

Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Author and Freelance Writer

Published Dec 01, 2020

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Every time I think about National Novel Writing Month, I start singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I love NaNoWriMo. Connecting with other local writers to achieve a goal, that frankly, seems superhuman, brings me immense joy.

There’s a thrill, too. Late nights, early mornings, the frenzied clickety-clack of keyboards, an unhealthy amount of caffeine. It’s a tangible creative energy, a buzz in the brain and in our fingers. The Muses have arrived.

This year, I’m documenting my NaNoWriMo journey. I won’t just document my progress. I’ll document the emotions behind this ride. You’ll learn which nights I wake up in a cold sweat, finally understanding the plot hole. I’ll tell you all my secrets for making it through when that initial slump hits.

So, follow along with me this year in the NaNoWriMo diaries.

  1. Sunday, October 25th, 2020
  2. Monday, November 2nd, 2020
  3. Sunday, November 8th, 2020
  4. Sunday, November 15th, 2020
  5. Sunday, November 21st, 2020
  6. Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

One week until NaNoWriMo begins.

Honestly, I’m really starting to doubt that I’m as prepared as I thought. I’m finishing a novel I’ve been working on for a year. I think 50,000 words should do it. I have a rough outline, but I need to do a lot more research to figure out some of the stranger aspects of the plot. Historical fiction is a whole new ballgame. And I’ve been busy! So, I’ve been neglecting my NaNo prep.

But I’m not panicking. Yet.

Yesterday, my region, Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas), had our kick-off party. Every region has its own traditions. We do a kick-off the Saturday before Halloween. It’s informal and social. We do icebreakers, meet the Municipal Liaisons, talk about our books. It’s a weird year with everything online, but our Zoom party went well.

I’m pumped to see so many new faces, and it was great to see returning faces, too. I’ve made a lot of friends through NaNo, but it’s hard to keep up with everyone the rest of the year.

We did an activity that I stole from ProWritingAid’s Happiness Conference. We pretended it was five years in the future, and we updated everyone on where we have “been” in the last five years. Some of us topped the bestseller charts, some of us went to the moon, and some of us broke into Hollywood. The excitement by the end of the icebreaker was palpable, even across the internet.

I’m spending this week with my nose stuck in books about piracy, Jacobites, and 1690s fashion. This NaNoWriMo is bittersweet, and not just because all of our events are online. This is my first NaNo that I’m not writing a book from my fantasy series, The Scholars of Elandria. The last book comes out in two days, so that chapter of my life is ending just in time for a new one.

I’m thrilled to share this journey with you.

Happy writing!


Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Why do I already feel like I’m way behind? I’m not, actually. I’m only 99 words short of the target minimum goal for day 2. But usually I front-load my word counts. I get thousands upon thousands written in the first few days, but that just didn’t happen. I did, however, write a scene I was so excited about. Remember, it’s okay to write your book out of order.

My region held our midnight write-in over Zoom on Saturday night. It was a blast! I loved hearing about everyone’s projects. And somehow I managed to write 500 words before 1 a.m.

I’m exhausted. I could say something cliché about unprecedented times here, but it’s the truth. However, I have all day tomorrow to spend writing. I’m pumped to get ahead and make some major progress on my book.

As of right now, I’m sitting at 3,245 words. Not my best beginning of Nano, but I’m not panicking yet.

How are you getting on? Let me know in the comments!

~ Krystal

Sunday, November 8th, 2020

If you’re wondering how general existential dread affects word counts, I can tell you: very negatively. My word count tracker is a rollercoaster right now, and there is a two-day plateau, as well. I was so excited to get my 30-day writing streak badge. But life happened. Unprecedented times, and all that.

My life will get less busy this week, so I’m not at all worried about catching up. Not yet, anyway. Today’s target, if I wrote the recommended minimum every day, is 13,336. I’m at 8,944 as of writing this. I might write a little more tonight.

This evening, I held my weekly write-in. As a Municipal Liaison, we are each required to hold one write-in a week. Although I’ve missed writing in person with my community, I have realized how needed Zoom write-ins are.

I’m going to share a little story. We have a community member who is unable to attend any in-person events. She said tonight that she finally feels like she found her community. She found where she belonged. I assured her that we would continue some sort of online presence in the future so that others like her can find their people, too.

That is what NaNoWriMo means to me. I found my community through attending NaNoWriMo events. I was welcomed as I am with open arms. I became an ML to help other people find that same sense of belonging that changed my life.

Writers need community. We need kindred spirits who understand fighting with your own characters or hitting a plot hole. We need fellow creatives to bring our own creativity to new levels. If these diaries do nothing else for you, I hope they encourage you to find your writing community, whether through NaNoWriMo or something else.

That’s the reason I love blogging for ProWritingAid, too. They focus on building a community, not just selling a product.

I’m feeling emotional tonight after my new friend said such meaningful words. Before I get more sentimental, I’m signing off.

Happy Writing!


Sunday, November 15th, 2020

It’s the halfway point of NaNoWriMo, which means I should be right around 25,000 words. I’m not.

The frustrating thing about every November is that our personal lives aren’t kind enough to go on pause for thirty days. I’m juggling a lot right now, and getting motivated has been difficult. Last night, however, I passed a major threshold in my book. Today I’m eager to move on.

I’ve been too focused on voice and plot details, which has slowed me down drastically. You would think after four previous years of doing this, I would learn to just get the story on the page. I gave myself a stern lecture last night and reminded myself that I can edit for everything later. Right now, I just need this book to be finished so that I can start editing next month!

I finally passed 15,000 words. If I write 5,000 words the next three days, I’ll catch up. And for the first time this month, I think I’m up to the challenge.

Happy Writing!


Sunday, November 21st, 2020

Slow and steady really does win the race. While I didn’t reach my lofty goals of hitting 5,000 words every day for three days, I did finally catch up. I’m sitting pretty at 37,002 words tonight.

It was exhausting. I wrote over 20,000 words in a week. The wrist braces came out by Tuesday! But for the first time this month, winning doesn’t feel quite so far away.

Is what I’ve written perfect? No, absolutely not. There are plenty of notes like, "fact-check this", "elaborate here", "change the timeline." But the story is unfolding, and I’m only 13,000 words away from winning. Now, is 13,000 enough to complete this draft? We’ll see. This novel is a monster.

It’s a short post tonight because I’m tired of typing. Hopefully by next entry, I’ll have completed my goal!

Happy writing!


Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Shortly before midnight on Saturday the 28th, I hit my word count goal. What a bizarre NaNoWriMo. It was much harder without in-person events, and I hope by next year, I can write in coffee shops across my region again.

But I’ve learned something else this year: an online component is crucial for people who cannot attend meetups and write-ins. Honestly, I feel bad that we never considered how many people need this community virtually. I think 2020 has taught all of us that, NaNoWriMo or not.

Last night was my region’s annual tradition, "Final Fight Night." Well, normally, it’s Final Fight Pizza Night at a bar with a private room that serves pizza and other good food. But we made it work! We had several people present hit their 50,000 words. I’m proud of this community.

Today, I’ll be wrapping up volunteer duties, and tomorrow evening is our "Thank God It’s Over" party. I can’t wait to rest before I dive into edits.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year, congratulations! You made it! Even if you didn’t hit your goal, you’re closer than you were on November 1st. If you didn’t participate, I hope my diaries have encouraged you to give it a try next year.

Happy writing! (and editing!)


Did you complete NaNoWriMo this year? Grab our offer for NaNoWriMo participants here.

Preparing For NaNoWriMo: A Q&A With the Executive Director, Grant Faulkner

preparing for nanowrimo, Oct 19, 7pm UK 2pm ET

November is fast approaching, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month, the writing challenge that asks you to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

We've asked the ultimate NaNo expert—NaNoWriMo Executive Director, Grant Faulkner—to share his advice. Join us for a Q&A and get all your questions answered.

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Krystal N. Craiker

Krystal N. Craiker

Author and Freelance Writer

Krystal N. Craiker is an author and freelance writer. She is the author of the Scholars of Elandria fantasy series. When she isn't writing, you can find her playing board games and volunteering. Krystal lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable dogs. Visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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