play icon Listen to this article

At least 50,000 words written in thirty days.

Such is the insanity I undertake every November, along with hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. November was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and according to, over 400,000 people participated last year in over 655 regions on six continents. I was one of them.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo since November 2015. That first year, I was enormously pregnant with my youngest, who was born eight days after NaNo finished.  But I actually won. I wrote those 50,000 words, and have done NaNo ever since.

IMG 6192
Sharon Clark and Frank Chirico

“You might think there would be a competitiveness among a group of writers, but there really hasn’t been,” Sharon Clark, who has just completed her third year and third win of NaNo, said. “It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, or how many times you’ve participated, there are people in the community who want to help you reach your goal.”

Frank Chirico participated in and won NaNo for the first time this year. He loved the organization as a whole and found the Central Iowa Group (CIANANO) amazing, especially the people who run it.

The hardest part of NaNo for him was distractions. This is a common issue for all writers, myself included. Our world is full of distractions, right down to the phones in our pockets. It can be hard to make yourself sit down and write. NaNo is a way to push yourself to do it.


“I love the challenge, the deadline, the internal drive to reach that goal come hell or high water. ” Clark said.

Here in Central Iowa, we have three wonderful ladies acting as liaisons and leading our group. Lynn Reed, Mary Eagan, and Krystal Komro organize the month, lead write-ins, keep us motivated, and are just incredible.

CIANANO schedules write-ins throughout the month, and at these write-ins we have writing sprints. During a writing sprint, Eagan will set a timer and a word goal, and we’ll all sit and write as fast as possible for those 11 or 28 minutes and try to hit that goal.

I personally have maybe hit the word sprint goals once or twice in my five years of participating, but it gets me writing.

nanowrimo women
Krystal Komro, Mary Eagan, and Lynn Reed, NaNoWriMo liaisons for central Iowa

The most important lesson I have learned from participating in NaNo is to not worry about editing as I go along. During NaNo, there isn’t time to go back and fix the spelling or punctuation of the previous sentence. You don’t have time to sit and ponder that elusive word you just can’t think of. You have to get your story on the page.

In NaNoWriMo, we celebrate crap. Your story can be crap the first time it’s written. That’s what revisions are for. And the fast pace of getting so many words written in such a short amount of time forces me to stop worrying about making each thing I write down perfect. I just have to write it down.

“NaNoWriMo is a wild ride of a month,” Clark said. “NaNo is fun and frantic, sometimes sleepless, creative, and exciting.”

“Give it a shot,” Chirico said. “Just try it. You’re not going to lose anything.”


NaNoWriMo has helped me so much as a writer, by forcing me to sit down and write, to stop trying for perfection in a first draft. I’ve found such a wonderful community of writers. Next November, I hope you will all join me in the fantastic craziness that is NaNoWriMo.