Swoon Author Kimberly Karalius: NaNoWriMo for the Nontraditional Participant

All Novembers are not created equal. No matter how well-intentioned I am going into National Novel Writing Month, there’s always a slew of obstacles that keep me from wedging myself into a corner all month and writing until my fingers fall off.

This year? It’s having a deadline right smack in the middle of November.


But why should that stop me from participating?

This year, I’m officially a Nontraditional Participant. I’m wearing that badge proudly and if you’re thinking of joining me in being hipster this month, then let’s hold hands and get cracking on our projects. After all, by the time you read this, a chunk of November has already slipped away.

So what are you working on this month that makes you think you can’t NaNoWriMo? Have you just finished writing a novel and you’re burnt out? Are you a planner who didn’t get her notecards and outlines lined up in time? Or do you have other writing-related tasks to catch up on, like the growing number of unanswered emails piling up in your inbox?

Use NaNoWriMo anyway. Absorb the excitement and desperation that makes this month so great. Momentum, dear writers. That is what moves us from one project to the next.

The Profile

No matter how you’re planning to spend your writing month, it’s hugely important to log onto nanowrimo.org and fill out your profile. Nothing is more motivating than seeing your inspiring cover art and description on display. It’s a very simple form of magic that helps you feel that you can do this. If you’re not sure where to start, see Exhibit A: 

kim's profile

It helps to have one of your favorite fandom characters to stare at whenever you’re embarking on another NaNo day. Yes, Oswald Cobblepot is very motivating. Trust me on this one.


The Word Count

The tricky part. If your goal for the month is to write a bunch of emails, then, yes, count every last word. Same goes with outlining or filling out character cards. But if you need to revise… well, it requires discrimination when you’re adding words up.

Revision is my reason for leaving the well-trodden NaNo path this year. The project with the deadline is a Big Secret, so I can’t share little pieces of it beyond fuzzing out photos of my laptop as I write. I’m sorry. But what I can tell you is how I’m handling tracking my word count while revising. Exhibit B:

word count

WOW! Those are a lot of words, right? YES. All of it was revised. How did I do this?

It’s actually fairly easy for me because of how I revise my manuscripts. When some writers revise, they go to certain scenes and tweak a few lines or they comb the manuscript for typos and grammatical errors. For me, that only occurs in round three or four of the revision process. The first time I revise a first draft, I pretty much tear it apart.

Thankfully for me, Top Secret Book #1 was ready for its first round of revision. Which meant major construction and the PERFECT time to be NaNoWriMoing. I had my edit letter from Holly West and my plan of action. I also put aside my tenderly curated Top Secret Book #1 playlist and started listening to revision music (which means a random, chaotic slew of pop and electronic songs from artists like Aqua, Crazy Loop, and even Spice Girls to keep my brain pumping. What?). 


Each time I revised/rewrote a paragraph, those new words went towards my NaNoWriMo count. If I’m not revising an entire scene, I only count the paragraphs I did extensive changes on.

This is not as hard as it sounds. I just write down the numbers and my trusty calculator does the rest!

Tracking my numbers this way also shows me how much of the manuscript I’ve actually worked on throughout the revision process, rather than just seeing what the final count is at the end.

What better way to see how hard you’ve worked – and how hard you always work – when it comes to the revision stage of any project. Congratulatory ice cream may be in order… at the end of the month. We must keep writing! 

The Sharing

Part of NaNoWriMo’s charm is the camaraderie. Being able to share your writing progress and see how others write (and procrastinate) makes you feel like you’re not alone. So you know what? Take your manuscript dripping with red ink to a local NaNoWriMo event. Sit at a Starbucks while you compose letters to long-lost friends. Design an outline for your next book while you’re waiting in line for rides at Disney World. 

Don’t feel awkward or ashamed of being a little different this year. Participating in any way you can is what matters most. NaNoWriMo is about making dreams come true: dreams made of ink and paper, of laptop screens and doodles in margins. It’s about breathing life into scratches on a page, one word at a time.

Revise, compose, outline, or write your grocery lists. Whatever.

Just get to the writing and BE PROUD.

Every weekday in November, we’ll be including a super special writing prompt at the end of all our blog posts! Check out today’s:

Prompt 11.12

Author spotlight

Kimberly Karalius

KIMBERLY KARALIUS holds an MFA in fiction from the University of South Florida, and has been sharing stories on Figment.com …

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