Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Literary Abandon

by Marion Ueckermann

Shout “Nano!” and immediately the mind conjures up images of minute things: nanobot (microscopic robot); nanosecond (one billionth of a second); nanotechnology (technology for microscopic devices); nanofossil (a very small fossil); and so on. You get the picture, I’m sure. Yet talk to anyone who’s ever tackled NaNoWriMo, fondly referred to as NaNo, and each participant will tell you that there’s nothing small about this Nano. In fact, it’s big . . . really big.

What, you ask trying hard not to look confused, is NaNoWriMo? I’ll tell you. National Novel Writing Month is a frenzied, fun-filled November where writers take a seat-of-the pants approach to novel writing. The goal? – to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days.

But NaNo is not for the faint-hearted; and it’s definitely not for those who value their sleep or their social life. For one crazy month, nothing else matters but word count.

The first NaNoWriMo took place in July, 1999 with 21 writers. 2008 saw 120,000 writers worldwide taking their place at the starting line of NaNoWriMo. But only 20,000 finally made it over the 50K mark, entering their names into the annals of NaNoWriModom forever.

A total collective word count of 2,427,190,537 was tallied in November 2009 by 167,150 participants – 40% more writers penning 48% more words than the previous year, proof that the NaNo craze is catchy. Last year also saw 32,173 winners, giving the highest win rate in modern NaNoWriMo history.

On the NaNoWriMo website, participants can watch weekly motivational videos by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty. Throughout the month, Wrimos also meet online and in person at coffee shops, book clubs, restaurants . . . wherever, to encourage and spur each other on to cross the finish line by the midnight month end deadline. Whether these zealous novelists win or lose, they’re certainly stars for trying.

Working hard to prepare for the Florida Christian Writers Conference that Shirley Corder and I are attending at the end of this month, my natural response to Shirley’s “Are you going to do your first NaNo this year?” was an emphatic “No!” It had taken me months of hard work to add 50,000 words to my current novel. There was no way I could write 50,000 words in just one month! Shirley, a seasoned and experienced writer, was struggling with the decision herself of whether to go for a fifth consecutive NaNo win or not. She too was frantically preparing for our US conference.

Eleven days before NaNo, I finally relented, as did Shirley, and we signed up for NaNoWriMo 2009. Of course we both agreed that we were most definitely certifiable, but still we chose to join the rest of the crazy Wrimos worldwide.

After ten days of outlining, designing a cover (not a requirement), choosing a name for my novel, and adding new NaNo friends to my profile, I was off to a flying start. However, when the pressures of life made meeting my daily writing goal of 1667 words nigh on impossible, I soon discovered how difficult it was to play catch-up. The backlog kept multiplying and five days before the end of NaNo, I was 13,258 words behind my daily target, with 21,591 words still left to write — nearly half the entire NaNo requirement! If I thought writing 50,000 words in one month was going to be tough, how on earth could I even begin to imagine I was able to do what was still required to finish?

“Never say die,” I said. I was determined not to fail no matter how impossible the prospect of winning. I’d come too far.

I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do during those last few days. My highest word count in one single day? - 7,059 words. At midnight on 29th November, I proudly crossed over the finish line. What a feeling to finally write: “It’s done . . . it’s dusted. Now to rest.” I could truly say with the Apostle Paul when I wrote that last word, “I have fought the fight, I have run the race”.

NaNoWriMo holds bittersweet memories. But the sweetest came in the form of an email from my son. “Congrats, Mommy. We’re so proud of you!”

If you’ve done NaNo, tell us about your experience in three words or a sentence. And next month I’ll share how NaNoWriMo gave me a deeper perspective of my mother’s childhood as I furiously penned her orphan’s story in my 2009 NaNo novel, “The Red Floor.”

MARION UECKERMANN only discovered her writing talents later in life. Her passion for penning poetry was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published some devotional articles in Winners at Work as well as inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has recently authored her first full-length Christian Women’s novel, Prodigal, and is looking for a publisher. Ms. Ueckermann now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa. A member and moderator of the South African Christian Writers Group, Marion can be contacted via email to marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net or through her website


  1. Hectic, exhausting, exhilarating.

    :-) Thanks for the reminders of a crazy month Marion!

  2. Novel way to acquire arthritic thumbs.

  3. Congratulations! Did the story actually end somewhere around 50,000 words or do you still have to bring it to a close? I have never had the courage to try it, but ti might free me from some of my perfectionism.

  4. LeAnne, I still need to bring The Red Floor to a close but I've only a chapter or two left to do that. But then the big edit needs to begin. Oh well, at least NaNo got me a first draft in 30 days. It was quite hard to resist the urge to edit as I wrote, yet this is something I've heard over and over ... just write - edit later!

  5. Marion, congrats on your NaNoWriMo success! I haven't attempted NaNoWriMo and it was great to read about your experiences. Thanks for sharing :-)

  6. Over 7,000 words in a day? Groan! And I'm having a battle on this deadline to reach 3,000. Perhaps reading inspiring blogs and writing comments like this doesn't help reach my target! Great post Marion.