Short Fiction, Teaching, Teaching Writing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

A NaNoWriffic November’s Ahead

November’s lurking just around the corner, cracking its knuckles and waiting to pounce.

A little melodramatic? Maybe. But I can’t help viewing the turning of the calendar page with some trepidation.

Between school and home, September and October have gone by in a whirlwind— momming and teaching and correcting and cooking and driving and writing and (sometimes) house cleaning—until I think I’ve forgotten how to just be still. This last week—our Fall Break—I edited 20 chapters of my novel, which turned into rewriting one pivotal chapter because I made a research mistake in the early drafts and I had my characters in the wrong location. (ARGH!) But I haven’t time to fix all of that because I still need to prep the next month’s lessons and my kids are getting antsy because I’ve been distracted and I need to spend some time with them and…

Readers and friends, I am so tired.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Tired or no, November is still coming. And with it, NaNoWriMo.

For those who are unfamiliar with the acronym, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the globe challenge themselves to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The official NaNo site is dedicated to tips, training, and tracking writer goals.

I participated and won in 2018 and (with adjusted goals) in 2019, and planned to do it again this year. I’m not gonna lie, at this point, I wouldn’t mind just letting it go.

However, weeks ago, my Reading students asked me, “Are we going to do that writing thing—NaNoWriMo—again this year?” As I still had some energy at that point, I responded with an enthusiastic affirmative. They were so excited.

Last year, my 5th and 6th grade class and I did a NaNoWriMo challenge together. I aimed to write 40,000 words on my own, and they tried to beat me, writing 50,000 words together as a class. Both my students who enjoyed writing already and my reluctant writers pitched in, and the excitement as they watched their word count grow was fantastic.

Last year’s Word Count tracker. I’m still trying to design one for this year—any theme ideas?

Of course, they had other incentives, too. I offered prizes for individual writing goals met, and, if the class met their goal as a whole, I promised them a class party…at which I would dress up as an animal of their choice.

They made me dress up as a camel.

It seemed like they enjoyed it last year, but their excited anticipation this year surprised me a little. For some kids, the draw is probably a chance to embarrass the teacher. (There’s already been speculation about which animal they’ll pick “when” they win this year.) Prizes like fuzzy socks and a break from the everyday routine are always nice, too. But I have some kids who thrive on writing—a couple who could probably manage 50,000 words on their own—and for the rest, if offering some little incentives gets them to try something new, to push themselves, well…I guess I’m embracing the craziness once again.

In the interest of sanity I’ll be adjusting goals a bit. I’m teaching Reading to 2nd, 5th and 6th AND 7th and 8th grade students this year (all split into two sections each for social distancing) and I’m working out attainable goals for each group.

I also don’t think I have a full 50,000 word novel in me just now, so I’m adjusting my personal goal to three short stories of 10,000 words each. That’ll make 30,000 words total, or 1,000 new words written a day.

What about you, Readers and Writers? Are any of you taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge? Do you have other goals this fall?

Whatever challenges you’re tackling, I’m wishing you all the best!

22 thoughts on “A NaNoWriffic November’s Ahead”

  1. You’re a busy bee! Like you, I don’t have a 50,000-word novel stored in my brain so I’m vacillating. It has been a crazy year and I’m in the middle of editing one of my old NANOWRIMO entries. I want to finish editing that first. So we’ll see. I have a week to make up my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you- I’m excited to see what comes out of all of this! Honestly, though, I had to cut my blogging back a bit to get these other things in, so you may be ahead of me- I also may be running on stubbornness more than energy at this point, so we’ll see how this goes 😂.


  2. I’m so glad you’re doing this again!! It made me so happy reading about it last year, it’s such a cool thing to do with your students.

    I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. It’ll be my 5th (!!) year doing it. It’s turned into such a fun tradition for me I can’t see ever NOT doing it XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks. Anything to get them writing!

      5 years- that’s tremendous!

      This will be my third, but my goals keep shrinking… My daughter and son are both in my Reading classes and are so excited- we found them new journals to use😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love to participate, but I have no clue a feasible goal for myself, or even my kids. I’d love for them to write a short chapter of a short book each day. I think that would be really cool. Less for Ric than for Caralyn. More for me. But I don’t even know of a story to start. I was never a real writer. I did some dabbling in erotica way back when at the beginning of my marriage and before we were married, but some things turned me off to that.

    I did have a story or two of that I’d have liked to expand on, but still not something I want to get back into quite yet. Too many bad memories and post traumatic stress induced anxiety with writing them at this point. At least I can do daydreams of stories I’d like to write someday, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to it.

    But something else. There is always SOMETHING at the tip of my tongue (or fingertips in this case) but it just won’t come out.

    Got any ideas or ideas of where to get some ideas to start off on?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK! I have a few ideas for you- maybe one of them will work!

      First of all, word count goals for your kids: Part of the challenge with NaNo is “showing up” every day for it. It can get easy to get discouraged if you “get behind.” For my classes this year, since we’re half time and don’t have as much in-class time dedicated to writing, I’m doing individual goals that are (I hope!) attainable for 5th -8th graders.
      I’m giving them three tiers of prizes (involving a free pass not to do a Reading assignment and, if they make the top tier, a pair of comfy socks. The socks were a huge motivator last year 😀 Sometimes a little prize at the end can motivate on the tough days.) Here are my three tiers this year- maybe they’d fit for your kids:
      Level One: 50 words per day, or, by the end of the month a 1,500 word story. (About 5 1/2 pages typed in 12 point and double spaced, just to give perspective.)
      Level Two: 100 words per day, or a 3,000 word story by the end of the month.
      Level Three: 150 words per day, or a 4,500 word story by the end of the month.
      I let kids type or handwrite, and I don’t make them write just one story- they can start multiple stories. They just have to be writing for meaning (not writing “the” 100 times or copying the dictionary :))

      If setting a word count goal doesn’t work well, a less stressful option might be doing “writing sprints” daily, and seeing how many words you get to by the end of the month. Just pick a time, sit down and set a timer (even just 10 minutes) and see how far you can go- this could be a fun way to do a writing November with you and your kids. It would also help you all gague how long it takes you to write to a certain number, helping you set realistic goals in the future.

      As to WHAT to write, if there isn’t a particular story or genre that’s pulling on you, you might consider typing in “writing prompts” into a search engine. I used to do this with my Reading classes- every day we’d have a writing prompt (I just found a list online of different ideas and picked ones I liked) and they and I would write for 10-12 minutes. Some prompts inspired more writing than others, but since it was something new every day, if one wasn’t great, the next day might be! And, if one of those “starts” sparked a student’s imaginiation, they could continue on that prompt the next day rather than starting a new one. I wound up with some story starts that are not in my general genre, but that I really liked. To streamline the process, you COULD even print off a list of prompts, cut them up, and pick one out of a jar each day for the group of you to write on- could be a fun challenge 🙂

      I’m adapting my own goal this year- I’m not trying to do one novel, but three 10,000 word stories (1,000 words per day.)

      The nanowrimo website also has some great ideas, AND there’s a young writers program where kids can do their writing online.

      Keep in mind, too, the goal isn’t to have perfectly polished and edited pieces- it’s just to write! If you end up with nothing you ever want to keep or show to anyone else, that’s fine- it’s just a chance to challenge yourself and dive into writing.

      I hope this is helpful!


    1. Isn’t that the truth? Every month seems to bring its own type of craziness!
      Thank you- I have some avid writers in there, and it’s fun to see them engage with their learning- it motivates me, too, which is helpful!


  4. That’s right! You got to make that fun camel outfit and beautiful autumn tracker. 🙂 I’ve to see how everything turned out! (I guess the plus of being behind is that I can keep going past the cliffhanger, lol)

    Liked by 1 person

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