NaNoWriMo: Words, Numbers & The Word

November may be the month we writers obsess over numbers as much as we do over words. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is here, and those of you participating can probably rattle off your current word count with little trouble.

For some of you, this number may please you. Others of you may shake your head and start explaining—with some embarrassment—the ways life has gotten in the way of your meeting your daily word count goals.

Either way, may I offer you some encouragement? If you’re hitting your daily word count, well done! You may be even be banking words for the craziness of Thanksgiving, when you know family demands and travel may leave little time to write. If so, keep writing, and keep meeting your goals.

If you’re missing your word target, well done! That seems an odd thing to say to a writer hoping to complete NaNoWriMo, doesn’t it? Really, though, so what if you are missing your word count goal? If you started the month with a NaNoWriMo plan, that means you have an idea for a book, and you’re nurturing your dream to see it to completion (or at least the first 50,000 words of it). If you’re writing but not quite hitting your target, you’re still accomplishing the task of writing. You may just need to give yourself permission to write more slowly. If you’ve gotten to a sticky part of your novel and don’t know where to go next, celebrate what you have already done, and give yourself grace. Pressure, self pity, and self loathing never cure writer’s block, and you may simply need a break of a day or two to think (instead of write) about these characters whose lives are in your hands. The characters themselves may let you know where they want to go next. (This often happens in the middle of the night; so keep a notepad by your bed to write down these nuggets of nighttime inspiration.)

If you’ve set writing aside for the month, well done! Okay. This one may really feel like a stretch, but hear me out. In some seasons, God—who called us to write in the first place—may be calling us to shift our priorities from what feels like the good and worthy goal of writing. Maybe it’s physical healing that requires significant rest. Maybe it’s caring for family or friends who require significant presence and time from us. Maybe it’s a day job with unexpected but nonetheless important demands we cannot put off until December.

Obeying God, even when it means setting aside our writing goals for a time, can feel hard and confusing. But we can all agree: our obedience to The Word is more important than any other numbers or words we may be tempted to focus on this month.

So let me encourage you. Meeting your daily word goal may be the right act of obedience for you this NaNoWriMo. Letting go of the goal may also be obedience. Only you and The Word can know for sure.

If you are tackling NaNoWriMo this month, I hope you’ll let us know how it’s going and how we may pray for you. As Inspire writers, we are here to encourage and advise one another, to celebrate and support one another. So let’s hear it: How is The Word working in you this season? And if you’re trying NaNoWriMo, how is that going?

About Hope Squires 2 Articles

Hope Squires is a Southern transplant temporarily living in Northern California. She tackled NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and she’s using the month this year to finish up the fourth draft of that novel—her first. To hear more about her experience with NaNoWriMo, visit John Vonhof’s Writers & Authors on Fire podcast. You can learn more about Hope and her writing at theflourishingtree.com.

4 Comments

  1. I am trying for the goal of 50k words this month, but not so much as stressing myself out for the pure goal. I ask God to help me in writing this first novel, and He does! I am far from my goal now, but at least I’m writing! I am also finding it not such a hard task after all, although right now I’ve run out of ideas before getting to the main punch. There are many tasks and chores I fulfill in a day, so I am really stretching my hours in a day. Thank you for the encouragement, Hope!

    • I think we can all relate to your situation, Linda! Our hours can get full each day, but I’m thrilled to hear you’re writing and striving for 50k words this month. Blessings to you as you create your first novel. May it draw you closer to God, and may it help you hone your writing discipline and craft. You mentioned having run out of ideas before the main punch. Why not go ahead and write the main punch part and come back to fill in the earlier details at a later time? Writing the main punch may help stir up more ideas than you know what to do with.

    • Ellen — I think it’s so easy for us to lose sight of what’s most important when we get caught up in chasing word counts instead of chasing after God. Our words can be a gift of obedience to God, but they may also become a distraction, too. It’s a balance, for sure, and one that I hope we can all keep in mind — especially during NaNoWriMo. Blessings to you!

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