Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Guest Post: Wendy Nikel ~ Dr. NaNoWriMo: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Novel

Dr. NaNoWriMo: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Novel
by Wendy Nikel

I first participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2012, and that is the date that I count from when people ask me how long I've been writing. Sure, you could dig through my old school papers and find some short stories written for local contests, and even a chapter book co-written by my third-grade best friends. On my hard drive, you'd find a couple children's books and 28,000-word time travel novel that never quite got off its feet. I even have 5" floppy discs with files written in PFS First Choice (for DOS!) of an epic fantasy novel and a mystery novel.

But that first NaNoWriMo marked a turning point for me, when I finally finished a novel-length work and started seeing myself as a "real" writer.
Writing a novel can be an intimidating process, but when I first read about NaNoWriMo — an online event that takes place each November, which challenges writers to write 50,000 new words in one month — I knew it was the type of challenge for me. Why?
·      Specific Goals - Before, when sitting down to write, I never really had specific goals in mind. I'd have a story I wanted to tell, and when I got bored telling it, I'd move on to something else. NaNoWriMo provides not only the specific goal of 50,000 words in one month, but also breaks it down into a manageable 1,666-word chunk per day. And there's charts! Who doesn't love charts?

·      Consistency - What happened to those previous, unfinished novels? Life got in the way. With NaNoWriMo, I go into the month knowing what I want to accomplish and that day-to-day consistency helps push me through, even on those days when I don't really feel like writing.
·      Support - Writing is a solitary pursuit, but that doesn't mean you have to go at it alone. Many of my early beta readers and first writer friends were people I met through NaNoWriMo. Not only are there message boards, but there's also local write-ins where you can meet other writers in person.
But if I had to choose one single element of NaNoWriMo that really helped me break through my own mental blocks and finally finish a novel, it would be the reminder given throughout the event that this is only a first draft.
I've always been a bit of a perfectionist, and realizing that these 50,000 words I write each November don't have to be perfect — in fact, aren't going to be! — helped me change my writing mindset.
I love the metaphor used by author Shannon Hale: "I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles." By challenging myself to write 1,666 words a day for 30 days, there isn't time for agonizing about word choices or going back and rewriting parts that don't work. To complete the goal, you have to keep moving forward, keep shoveling sand into your box so that later, there's plenty to work with. And this, I believe, is the greatest value of NaNoWriMo: to help you get the words on the page so that later, you can craft them into something wonderful!

Elise Morley is an expert on the past who's about to get a crash course in the future.

For years, Elise has been donning corsets, sneaking into castles, and lying through her teeth to enforce the Place in Time Travel Agency's ten essential rules of time travel. Someone has to ensure that travel to the past isn't abused, and most days she welcomes the challenge of tracking down and retrieving clients who have run into trouble on their historical vacations.

But when a dangerous secret organization kidnaps her and coerces her into jumping to the future on a high-stakes assignment, she's got more to worry about than just the time-space continuum. For the first time ever, she's the one out-of-date, out of place, and quickly running out of time.


Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she's left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the ImaginationDaily Science FictionNature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.

As of October 25, 2017, THE CONTINUUM is available for  PRE-ORDER


  1. I did my first (and only, to date) NaNoWriMo in 2008. It was an interesting experience. The thing I wrote was not great, but it was a start. Writing is the thing I do least, so I don't know if I'll ever go back and try to save that novel, but I think it's something even casual writers should try to see how much they've really got in them.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, John. I totally agree. When I first started writing novels, I did a similar thing informally to see if I could stick with starting and finishing a longer work. I finished as well and it felt amazing.

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