Woman working on her NaNo novel

10 Signs Someone You Know is Doing National Novel Writing Month

Woman working on her NaNo novel

Many of us who take part in National Novel Writing Month enjoy shouting from the rooftops that we’ve accepted the heady challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel during the 30 days of November—but others are more secretive about it. If you have a friend, coworker, family member, or other loved one whom you suspect has covertly embarked on the insane journey of thrills, heartbreak, and extreme writing speed that is NaNoWriMo, here are a few signs to watch out for:

1)  When you tell him a funny story over lunch about how your boss got his arm stuck in a vending machine, he cries, “Yes! I can use that!” and starts scribbling furiously on a napkin.

2)  You get a late-night text message from her that says, “I need a sexy name for a gangster’s girlfriend. She’s a redheaded former spy-assassin from Chicago and she knows jiu-jitsu. GO!”

3)  Sneaking up behind him while he’s on his laptop, you see that he’s googled the phrase, “tropical diseases that cause temporary blindness in pirates.”

4) You recently noticed his cup of coffee drinking its own tiny cup of coffee.

5)  She can be found on Facebook and Twitter at weird hours of the night and early morning posting things like, “1,837 words in an hour!” and “What’s another word for ‘burnished’?” and “Did Vikings wear bedroom slippers?”

6)  You turn over in the middle of the night and realize that your partner’s typing in her sleep.

7)  During a heated argument, he tells you that your dialogue is weak, your motivations are unclear, your backstory is underdeveloped, and your plot is full of holes. Then, he tries to change your name to something that “works better in this story and fits your character more.”

8)  When you ask how her day is going, she launches into a rant about how hyphenated words apparently only count as one word, when clearly—obviously—they should count as two words. She then mutters something about how the hyphen is a “tiny bridge of lies and betrayal” and is “killing my productivity.”

9) Right in the middle of a dinner conversation, he falls asleep…then immediately starts sleep-typing.

10) You hardly see her at any social gatherings during the month of November—and when you do, she looks exhausted, excited, determined, woozy, haunted—and yet also, somehow, like she’s in the middle of having the best time ever.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

  • appifanie

    The “tiny bridge of lies and betrayal” line? Love it so much. Wait, I can use that . . . ;)

  • Noneya

    I can write that in two weeks and have done it several times. Easy.

    • Wrimo

      Well, aren’t you special? Sorry some of us have busy lives and we actually have to force ourselves to carve out time to write. NaNoWriMo makes it fun, challenging, and gives us the motivation to do it. But, hey, if it makes you feel better about yourself to boast about an unproven ability to a bunch of people you’ll probably never meet, good for you! By the way, technically speaking, I could do it in less than 36 hours if I had the time, stamina, and caffeine. Now, I could tell you that I’ve done it several times and that it’s easy, but I’m not a huge fan of fiction outside the novel. :)


      Oh REALLY? 50,000 words in 2 weeks? Well Good for you. The rest of us have busy lives and dont get a chance to write so much. U dont need to brag.

    • Tracey Gates

      That’s great! Some on there can do it in three days. Not me. I’m thrilled to get up to two thousand words in an hour now, but November is a busy month for me. So I’m not working on it for long each day. I wasn’t going to do it this year. Then found myself writing anyway and figured, why not?

    • Ayesha Ahmad

      Plot? Character development? Dialogue? Story flow?

      You’re welcome.

    • Jessica MacIntyre

      I did it this year in 11 days, but not without some serious coffee consumption and eye irritation. It can be done, sure, but Nanowrimo is about writers coming together and helping each other, not bragging about how great you are and how easy it is. It very well might come easy to you, but a post like that kind of defies the real spirit of Nano. We’re supposed to build each other up and encourage everyone to get their stories out there. Not be glib. For anyone out there still going, keep going! When I first started writing ten years ago I could barely get 1000 words in a day. I fought for those words too, it was difficult. The good news is the more you exercise your writing muscle the quicker you can become. My daily average now is about 4,000 words, and that’s not during Nano. It takes me the same amount of time to write the 4,000 as it did to write the 1,000. Keep trucking! Keep your head down and don’t stop until your finished. Even if you don’t make the Nov 30th deadline, don’t give up on your book. Just keep writing. Keep going no matter what!

      • Ayesha Ahmad

        You are awesome.

    • Andrew Lorch

      I can write that in a day. And it would all be gibberish. What’s your point?

      I purposely cap myself around 2k words per day, so I don’t get burnt out. It’s a pace I can sustain indefinitely. But guess what? That only matters to me. Everyone is different and a lot of people have busy lives. Being all smug and condescending, and diminishing the challenge of NaNoWriMo while you’re at it, is nothing less than toxic.

    • SK

      If 50k is so easy for you I challenge you to write 200k in a month. It is not about boasting, it is not about bragging, it is about challenging yourself to do something you have not done and actually following through. Every year I push myself to try for more words than I wrote last year. So instead of making those who do not find it easy feel defensive, by making a challenge seem worthless, why not challenge yourself?

    • writegeist

      Re-writing is hard… Selling is harder.

  • Stephanie Kaye

    Haha, this was great! Stupid hyphens! I used one earlier today…

  • http://www.heycheri.com/ Sherilynn Macale

    So good.

  • Essy Shapiro Dean

    This is great!!! Number 10, yeah, that’s describing me right now, so I should probably be planning on going to bed early, but it’s NaNoWriMo, so that definitely isn’t going to be happening

  • CastielTheAngel

    Tried last year and didn’t get very far. Attempting this year as well and I’m just past 5000 words…maybe I should do this when I’m not in band…

  • Sissa Romanova

    Check, check, check, check… all check. Damn! :D

    … I should be writing.

  • Mary Hall-Rayford

    I finished this year’s challenge on Day 14! Still writing to finish the book!

  • chrisk0

    Aww, I feel disappointed that I haven’t been doing any of these things… but I’ve been having a great Nano, and seeing lots of writer friends in coffee shops several days a week! Bonus.

  • Ayesha Ahmad

    This is so accurate. O_O

  • Ileandra & Raven

    Hehee I love these. Knowing that there are other people as nutty as I am makes me feel somewhat better about completely putting life to one side for a moment to write this novel.
    Well… not completely, I have been out and stuff, but I’m still steaming towards the finish. Well done anyone and everyone who has made it this far; getting to the half way point is something to REALLY be proud of! x

  • Rini Kirkpatrick

    and contractions! no contractions!

  • Karen R. Thorne

    If only Barnes & Noble stores had OUTLETS so that writers could actually have meetups at B&N stores during NaNoWriMo. Especially after Borders closed. (Our NaNo group was left “homeless.”)

    • Christine Eve Stokley

      they do in some places. There are a few in the Denver Metro area in Colorado

    • Semiiramiis

      There are some, yes.

    • http://www.commonplacebook.com electrasteph

      We tend to take extension cords and numerous power strips to our write ins so we can chain them together and get one big power source.

  • rebecca moe

    That is SO TRUE about the hyphenated words! I’ve been lamenting it for five long years now…”tiny bridge of lies an betrayal” indeed…

  • Delia (Postcards from Asia)

    This year I’m participating for the first time. It’s such a great experience, with its ups and downs. I’m learning so much about myself and the process of writing. And I’ve never typed faster in my life.

  • summoner2100

    This would be a better article if it would just choose between him or her. Stick all the options to a male or female writer, FFS, it is annoying when you flip flop between them =

    • Trey Yacek

      Some writers are male, some writers are female. I appreciated that this list didn’t get exclusive like that.

  • Laura Crean

    Haha – sad, very sad, funny, very funny but true, so true!

  • Susan Smith-Grier

    I refuse to use hyphens during NaNo! I do not use contractions in November either. And every word is spelt korrectlie during NaNo. December poses a completely different story!

  • Crystal

    truth! this was me I can’t believe I finished on Day 16 o.o

  • Rebecca Douglass

    I loved #4! I’m pretty sure my coffee has been doing that. It would explain so much. . .

  • Ayesha Ahmad

    Who’s writing on Wattpad for NaNo?

  • Jacki Draycott

    15 days!!! But then, I am an ML…

  • Julie Konves McPeek

    This is the part where I start scribbling furiously on a napkin. Actually, earlier today, I was squeezing my thoughts into the margin of a used Post-It Note because it was the only thing I could get my hands on.

  • http://www.positivekismet.com/ ElizOF

    What a hoot! You had me at #4 – “his cup of coffee drinking its own tiny cup of coffee.” The visual is hysterical. I do love NaNoWriMo. 8-)

  • David Seven

    Of course.

  • David Seven

    I think my wife can relate to at least half of these.

  • Author Bella Bryce

    BAH!!!!!!!! Wow. Pegged me. Definitely. Except it’s 59,000 words and I have 2 weeks left.

    @appifanie:disqus I agree, ”tiny bridge of lies” re: hyphens is going in the quote book.

  • http://www.theideasmithy.com IdeaSmith

    Yes, oh yes! I’ve casting all about Twitter for character names and now for minor plot twists too. The line ‘he tells you that your dialogue is weak, your motivations are unclear,
    your backstory is underdeveloped, and your plot is full of holes.’ made me guffaw and then think about my own story with an OMIGOSHISTHATTRUE??! Egad, NaNoFever.

  • CatchingFear


  • ampersanders

    Hahaha. Man, I can relate. I don’t want to see how many ounces of coffee I’ve had this month.

  • PotentialAuthor

    “Tiny bridge of lies and betrayal….I can totally use that!

  • http://www.commonplacebook.com electrasteph

    My coffee having it’s own cup of coffee. Adorable.

  • CherylRWrites

    I kinda like the partner who’s typing in her sleep….