NaNoWriMo: remembering the first time!

Do you NaNo? I haven’t this year, but I can still remember the first time.

That makes it sound as if it was decades ago. It was actually in 2015 – but that seems like a VERY long time ago now! I’ve written so much since then…

If you’re reading this and saying ‘Hang on, what? NaNo what?’, sorry – I’m getting ahead of myself! I’m referring to National Novel Writing Month, which happens every year in November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the course of the month, which is equivalent to a short novel.

If you’re asking yourself ‘Why would anyone do that?’ you’re not alone. However, thousands of people do it every year. And like me, for many of them it’s their first go at writing a full-length book.

I joined the NaNo challenge back in 2015, and yes, I did it, as you can see from the image! I wrote 60K words that month and added another 20K in the first half of December to reach a respectable 80K or thereabouts. The book originally had a title I’d got from an online generator, Utopia for Ducks, as I had no idea what it would be called! Later, it became A House of Mirrors.

Summoning my memories of that November, I was dedicated. I was at the desk punctually every weekday, I did lots of research, and I even had plot points to hand.

And then I came to the end, and thought What now? How on earth do I turn this mass of words into an actual book?

I have to admit, I was a coward. I was so scared that what I had written might turn out to be utter rubbish that I filed it away (well, it was a computer file anyway but you know what I mean), and I didn’t open it again for EIGHT MONTHS.

I mean, I know people say you should get some distance from your book before you start editing, but that’s ridiculous!

Why did I wait so long?

Well, drafting a book and editing a book are two different things. I love drafting, where I get to tell myself the story. I now also like editing very much, where I get to chip away at what I’ve written and fiddle and tweak until I’m happy. I like it so much that I also edit books for other authors nowadays. But editing is a skill, and while I knew how to edit small things, a novel was a different proposition entirely. I had to learn how to approach it. Plus, while no one could see my first draft but me, the point of a finished book is that ANYONE can pick it up and read it.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and got to grips with my book. I read how-to books, I read blogs, I did editing pass after editing pass, and I released A House of Mirrors around a year after I finished writing it. It’s my best-selling book, and I’m so glad I faced the edit!

So that’s my happy ending – but what about all the other people who do NaNoWriMo and have a ‘now what?’ moment on December 1st? It can’t just be me!

So I have a question for you, if you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo or written a book:

When you finished your first draft, what help or support would you have liked?

As an editor and book coach, I’d love to be able to offer a service or a range of services catering to first-time NaNo finishers, or indeed to anyone who finishes a first draft and thinks ‘Now what?’

Please hit reply and let me know your thoughts!


4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: remembering the first time!

  1. James Salt

    Hi Liz Thanks for the emails. Sorry for not responding earlier.
    Congratulations are in order for your successes. I think we have met in the past. I’m not certain whether it was at a Warrington Library event or Stockton Heath. The Writing Groups I was involved in have all given up. It hasn’t affected me but I would like to be involved in a group again. I subscribe to a bi-monthly magazine. They print everything I write. I can however say I have had my 15 minutes of fame on stage reading my work. One event was an invite to the Salford Film Festival at the Lowry Theatre.


    1. Hi James, nice to hear from you! I think some in-person groups had a hard time during the phase of the pandemic when social events shut down. Stockton Heath group is still going if that would be any good for you. Congratulations on your publications and onstage experience!


      1. James Salt

        Hi Liz Thanks or your reply, and the info about Stockton Heath. I am a full time carer now for my wife and need to limit my time away from the house in case of panic attacks. So it seems travelling to Writing Groups is a no-go area. Thanks for the info. Much appreciated.


  2. Pingback: Black Friday weekend offer: first-look edit! – Liz Hedgecock

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