It was in Nov. 2012 that I wrote my first novel. 

By the time I finished it was 52,421 words long, complete with discontinuity errors in every chapter, enough syntax mistakes to kill an English professor and plot holes deeper than the Grand Canyon.

But it was my book, nonetheless.

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Honestly, I don’t remember much from Nov. that year. I was a junior in high school at the time.

What I do remember is writing bits and pieces of the novel in the margin of my history notebook every time the teacher turned his back.

I remember arguing with my mother over the importance of my novel versus the importance of my grades.

And I remember the tears of joy that actually leaked from my eyes when I typed the words “The end” on the 94th page of that word document.

The book was called “Life In Between” and it was written in 29 days.

Nov. has been dubbed “National Novel Writing Month,” or NaNoWriMo for short and is recognized worldwide as a 30 day challenge to write an entire novel before the start of December.

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, describes the month as a “seat-of-your-pants literary adventure” on the website.

The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, which roughly translates to a 175-page paperback. That’s 1,667 words a day. That’s a lot of late nights, a lot of hand cramps and a lot of comfort food.

The site was launched in 1999 with only 21 participants, but has been growing in popularity over the last 15 years. Last Nov., over 400,000 people signed up on the website to write novels. Participation is free and a person is considered a winner if the 50,000 word quota is met by Nov. 30.

It was a friend of a friend who initially got me involved in this literary Odyssey in 2011 and of the three years I’ve already participated I’ve only finished one novel.

Novel writing is not my forte.

I’m more of a short story writer – getting to know my characters just long enough to get them down on the page before I consider the piece done.

Sticking with the same characters and plot for an entire month was definitely a challenge, but it’s a challenge that hundreds of thousands of others have chosen to embark on with me.

For winners, the site offers no prizes other than bragging rights. A lucky few will go on to edit and publish what was once a 50,000 word trainwreck, while others will never speak of those abominations again.

As for me, my novel is printed out and tucked away, deep in a desk drawer back home. I haven’t decided yet whether or not it will ever see the light of day.

Why participate in NaNoWriMo, then, if in the end you are not a published writer? To quote Chris Baty: “There’s a book in you that only you can write.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another novel to write. Happy NaNoWriMo.


Jill Giambruno can be contacted at

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