How One Young Writer Won the NaNoWriMo 2013 Challenge

by Jane Waldner

Published at 2013-12-09

This year, after many years of procrastination, failing, and heartbreak, I decided to give myself one last chance at success: I was going to win NaNoWriMo.


For those unfamiliar with this perilous and crazy endeavour, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month: is a challenge that comes about every November and entails writing 50,000 words in a 30-day period. All these words should amount to a novel, or something novelesque at any rate.


What it actually amounted to was a mad-dash to the finish line at the eleventh hour, as I attempted to make sentences that had a modicum of sense attached to them. It also meant fighting against tears because I would not allow myself to give up. 


The Premise


NaNoWriMo sets you up with what at first seems to be quite a large task. I, having never written a paper over a thousand words nor having never completed the goal in previous years, naturally found this to be a bit daunting. Just looking at that massive number was enough to send me into a panic.


Those at NaNo suggest breaking it down into smaller chunks, writing 1,667 words a day if you wanted to complete it on time. Even so, this seemed like something that “real” writers do — those who write on a daily basis, those who have the time to craft and perfect their art.


This begged the questions: Was I actually up to this? Am I a writer?


I was about to find out.


The Execution


I’m not sure why I decided that this would be the year that I would accomplish this goal. I guess some rationale was that I am now out of school and would have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate to my story. Foolishly I forgot that my two part-time jobs would eat up most of that time and that I would be stuck writing either very early in the morning or very late at night.


But I persisted.


I decided the best way for me to actually write anything was just to dive in head first. I had tried creating an outline but realized very quickly that I had no idea what my story was going to be. I had no beginning, middle, or end, just a vague concept of a main character and her life (which seemed strangely similar to mine...).


But I persisted.


I didn’t want to waste my time just thinking about the writing. Instead, I decided that I was not going to write the story in any sort of chronological order. I would choose plot bunnies that struck my fancy and expand on them until I got bored and moved onto another segment.


And I persisted.


Another rule was that I was not allowed to edit anything I wrote until after the competition was over. Being the perfectionist I am — which is most likely the reason I had never finished before: I was too caught up in getting it right the first time that I couldn’t appreciate what I had — this was incredibly difficult for me. I didn’t even allow myself to reread what I had written unless I was adding to a section. Even then, it was just to moderately refresh my memory before I dove back in again.


And I continued to persist and persist and persist.




Amazingly enough, this method worked. I did run into a few plot holes, which stumped me for a while, but I plodded through. I didn’t allow myself to get hung up on them because there simply wasn’t enough time. I could rework them later. I still needed to write another 5,000 words. I could make them make sense another day.


There were quite a few days when I would look at my actual word count and then look at the word count I was supposed to have reached and felt mightily disheartened. I would think to myself, Well, I’m already behind, I’ll never catch up. Who am I writing this for anyway? No one’s paying me for this, and I’m pretty sure I’ve stolen all of these ideas from other people.


Why bother?


I had to remind myself every day that I was doing this for me. I was doing this so that I would know that I could do this. I was doing it ... because I am a writer.


And at 11:30 p.m. on November 30, 2013, I crossed the finish line. I had 50,000 words behind me in the shape of a story.




A total of 312,804 people signed up to write 50,000 words in one month. Only 41,940 made it across the finish line. I was one of them. Fewer people than words necessary were able to accomplish the goal.


And I for one cannot wait to do it again.


For more information about NaNoWriMo and its other events, check out


About Jane Waldner

Jane is a 23-year-old Cinema and Media Studies Honours Grad from York University’s Film Program. She loves to read, write, and watch more television than is good for her. If she could have one wish it would be to create her own TV show so the characters would finally listen to her. She runs her own website at where she writes reviews, rants, and recaps about TV, movies, and other pop culture-y things.