Shutting off the internal editor for 30 days

Oops, I did it again! Signed up for National Novel Writing Month, that is. How could I not? It’s addictive knowing I can get 50,000 words down in 30 days.

NaNoWrimo 2012 Participant badge

I’m an official ‘participant,’ and on or before December 1, I plan to be an official ‘winner’ for 2012.

If you have any inkling at all about wanting to get a story out of your head and onto the page, I recommend NaNoWriMo. Even if that dark voice in your head starts whispering things like:

  • You don’t have the time
  • You’re already over worked
  • You haven’t found time all year for your writing so what makes you think now will work?
  • Ha! You think you have a good enough idea for a novel?
  • There’s a long holiday weekend in November and you have to cook, clean, travel, visit, watch football, or be a couch potato.

What I love about participating in NaNoWriMo is shutting up that dark voice – and I bet you can turn off your internal editor, too.

Despicable Me 2 Movie PosterI visualize my ‘dark voice’ as a yard gnome (I have nothing against yard gnomes in the real world), and stomping it with a large boot. But like the googly-eyed talking Twinkies, er, minions in the movie Despicable Me, (or the upcoming Despicable Me 2) my imaginary yard gnome doesn’t shut up, no matter what I try — EXCEPT during November.

In November, there’s some type of force field that separates me from the dark voice in my head when I’m writing fiction. And I think it works for a lot of other writers, too.

This is directly from

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

NaNoWriMo is free and you can be as involved as you want with other Wrimos (the name given to other, um, crazy people who have signed up) in your area or online.

You can try “word wars” where people agree to start writing at a certain time (top of the hour, quarter past, half past, etc.) and for a certain length of time (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.) At the end of that time period, post your total words, and see how you compare to other writers. Competition can really kick those endorphins into high gear.

Honestly, there is just a feeling of freedom knowing that the internal voice has no power and that the words can flow onto the page. Editing can start in December, but for November, how about joining me in getting at least 50,000 words down?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. As Lisa Haselton, she writes fiction, co-blogs about mystery-related writing topics at Pen, Ink, and Crimes, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is a chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

44 thoughts on “Shutting off the internal editor for 30 days

    • Yay, Jill! I’ve done a few NaNos and haven’t always succeeded, but I really do love it. The pep emails they send out each week help a lot – they KNOW when we hit highs and lows – they’ve been there. 🙂 Good luck to you too!

    • Congrats on taking the plunge, Heaven. 🙂 I’m also excited and anxious – that doesn’t go away. I’m trying to decide whether to start cold turkey on 11/1, or work on a story that’s on my mind. I’ve tried both ways. I’ve never shown up with a story outline, though, since, for me, I know I won’t be sticking to it! Do you have an idea in mind, or will you just start writing on 11/1 and see where your characters lead you?
      Do you know what genre you’ll be writing?

      • How is it going? I had an idea for a story that has been germinating for a while ~ no plan though! I just started writing and the charactyers just kept taking me back and sideways! I am now rethinking the whole story and it is getting quite dramatic ~ a sort of crime/mystery but based on a real incident. The setting is where I used to work so i have plenty of detail to bring interest to the story. I keep remembering what I was told ~ don’t add more just go deeper! I can forsee a very grisly ending coming up but as yet have no idsea what it will be. I have not managed 2000 words a day but have managed more on some days. Will persever but time is in short supply!!!
        Hope you are getting on well. Good luck!

      • Thanks for the update! I have 0 words so far for my novel project this month, so you’re well ahead of me. Keep going, and it sounds like you’re on the exact path you need to be. Knowing there’s a grisly ending and you still want to keep writing, gives us a pique into what you like to write. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Hi Jensine – it’s a great exercise – and you have nothing to lose, but definitely a lot to gain! Once you sign up, you can connect to your ‘region’ and find ‘write-ins’ in your area (they’re specific dates and times other Wrimos get together in person and write…and chat, but mostly write).
      And if you can find a kick-off party to go to, those are always fun – you get to meet the other Wrimos in your area. And the TGIO (thank goodness it’s over) parties are a blast, too, since you can share your experience with others who will know exactly what you’re talking about. 🙂

      • Thanks … I just signed up before I read your answer and found a meet-up on the 27th here in Dublin. We will see where it all leads me 🙂

    • Hi Stan, it really all depends (at least for me) on how muffled the internal editor is. NaNo is strictly about getting the words on the page – no worry about formatting, correct spelling, making sure there is correct punctuation or dialogue tags or whatever. It’s purely about striving for 50k words in 30 days.
      If you can do 1667 words per day for 30 days, you’re golden. If you can only write weekends, obviously you have to write more. 🙂 I find that when I’m in the zone, I can get about 2,000 words down every 30 minutes.
      It really depends on how fast you type and how strongly you resist the urge to go back and fix things. 🙂
      Does that help?

  1. This is my second NaNoWriMo! I didn’t succeed last year in the 50,000 words, at least, but it did get me started on my current novel. I’m hoping this year to reach the 50,000 words AND get further on my novel. It’s crazy, but I love it!

    • Hi Kat – congrats on coming back to NaNo. 🙂 I’ve found that NaNo is great for kickstarting a novel – my story usually starts finding its groove just as I’m reaching the 50k mark. Which is inspiring, since I know I’ve gotten somewhere and worked through a lot of things that didn’t work.
      ‘Crazy’ really is the term for Wrimos. 🙂

    • Congrats, Steve! It might be hard to muffle that nagging little voice the first couple of days, but once you do, it’s SO freeing.
      I always say that I wish I could treat every month like NaNo, but I haven’t done it yet. 🙂

      My nano name is ‘womanryter’.

  2. So, I’ve been taking notes for a novel since 1991, and I just finished Chapter 2 for the second time. . . Maybe Nanowrimo is just what I need to kick my pen into high gear. . .

    • I bet you can get a lot done with NaNo, Deborah. It’s great for writers of all levels of experience. I’d love to know what you think of it, if you do it. 🙂

  3. I completed Camp NaNoWriMo in August, it was my first attempt and I was a Winner. I successfully kept my inner editor at bay for most of the month which is probably the only reason I was able to complete the project. I was so proud of myself; now all I need to do is begin the editing process and finish the book!

    • That’s great, Sharon! Congrats!

      The editing and finishing are definitely challenges, but, shhhh, don’t tell the newbies, let’s just let them focus on cranking out 50,000 words in November. 🙂

  4. I think I’m gonna do it. I’m going to take on NaNoWriMo in the same manner as Cheryl Strayed took on the Pacific Crest Trail–with little experience and nary a clue what I’m doing! Why not? Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Amber, that is *exactly* the approach to use. Just say you’ll do it and jump in – what you need to figure out, you will and the rest doesn’t matter. 🙂

    • You sound prepared, Margy. Way to go!

      Those internal editors can really get rambunctious! I really love squishing mine in November. Sounds mean, but it needs to be done.:)

    • Congrats, Mandy! And publishing in between the NaNos, wow. You’re an inspiration. 🙂 And there’s that ‘crazy’ word again!

  5. First time for me too, Lisa! And the internal editor needs to be put in her place because she’s a real problem for me! To get her to leave me alone, Ive been spending the last month outlining scenes, playing with a storyboard (of sorts), writing character profiles, so when the time comes I will be ready to hack away and produce a rough draft. So when she tries to direct me with her nitpicking, I’ll be ready to say
    “Scuse me! STEP ASIDE LADY! Can’t you see I’m on a roll here?” lol

    • hee hee, that sounds like the perfect attitude, Laura. Congrats on being a 1st-timer and you sound well organized, I’m jealous. 🙂

  6. Good luck! I know you can do it! I’ll be participating in NaNo for the fifth year in a row this year and even though I probably won’t win due to an extremely demanding work schedule, it’s always totally worth it. 🙂

    • Hi Tracey, thanks for the post. I agree about it being totally worth it even if the finish line remains uncrossed. The experience itself is quite a lesson – and I think it’s different for everyone. It’s different for me every time, and that’s part of what draws me back time and time again.

  7. Your post was so inspirational I did it…I signed up. I am a NaNo first-timer. I’m very nervous and yet giddy like a school girl all at the same time! I love the idea of everyone kind of going through it together. After a couple of “shoulda done it” years I’m doing it this year. And hopefully my daughter is, too! 🙂 Good luck to you and see you in December! bahaha

    • lol, way to go, Roxanne! Congrats on diving into the deep end! And it’ll be great if you have your daughter enjoying the craziness at the same time too, but if you need people to share experiences with, there are a LOT of different forms on the NaNo site – you can seek out people writing in the same genre, people in the same locale, other first timers… so many options, and that really makes a difference.

      Write on! And, yeah, see you on the ‘other side’! 😉

    • Mary Ann – ahhh, that’s the joy of NaNo – learning to stop editing. I know folks who have done their daily word goal for NaNo, then edited it before writing the next day, but as you go through the month you realize you’re taking time away from reaching the 50k goal and so you do, eventually, learn how to stop editing. At least I did! You can always edit *after* you reach the finish line.
      Give it a shot!

  8. I signed up for NaNo as well, so I had to laugh when I came across this 😛 It’s my first time and I’m more of a non-fiction writer so for me it’s going to be a real challenge…..!

    • Hi Corrina – congrats on signing up! You can have al ot of fun letting the muse flow in November and stifling the internal editor to see what type of fiction comes through. Happy writing!

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