When is it too late to join NaNoWriMo?

If you’ve ever thought of taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), you might have run into this question: when is it too late to join NaNoWriMo? Many people start planning for NaNoWriMo well before November, but for others life has a way of, well, getting in the way.

I ran into this problem the first year I heard about NaNoWriMo since I heard about it well into the first week of November. Though I was already lagging behind in word count, I still tackled the challenge and managed to finish by the skin of my teeth on the last night. But this might be the exception to the rule. At a certain point, no matter how determined you are, NaNoWriMo becomes unfeasible.

NaNoWriMo crestSo, how can you figure out if it’s too late to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge?

First off, let’s start with the math. NaNoWriMo challenges a writer to write a 50,000 word novel in one month: this means, on average, a writer must write 1,667 words per day to complete the challenge. For every day missed, a writer must make up that day, adding to his daily goal.

Here’s a visual breakdown of the first third of November and what your daily goal would considering which day you started on:

November 1 1,667 words
November 2 1,724 words
November 3 1,786 words
November 4 1,852 words
November 5 1,923 words
November 6 2,000 words
November 7 2,083 words
November 8 2,174 words
November 9 2,273 words
November 10 2,381 words

Let’s say you start today, November 12th. This gives you 19 days (including today) to complete NaNoWriMo, with an average daily goal of 2,632 words. Yikes! Unless you were a full-time writer, you would be looking at quite the challenge. But if you still think you can do it, you would want to start now and not wait until tomorrow because if you started then instead, your daily goal would jump to 2,778.

writing with computerEach missed day means another jump in your daily goal and while some authors can churn out consistent 2,500-3,000 word days, not everyone is that prolific (especially when you have a day job!).

Now that we’ve gotten the math out of the way, do you have the time to dedicate to this project? Can you set aside a few hours a day to hammer out a first draft? If so, great! If not, maybe try NaNoWriMo anyway—see how far you can get. Many people never finish during the timeframe of the challenge, but just because you don’t finish your novel then, doesn’t mean you will never finish it. Or, if you need a manageable goal, cut the 50,000 in half: 25,000 words is much more doable. If you don’t have a novel in you this year, perhaps a novella will do?

Need help keeping track of your daily word goals? Check out my previous post on word count spreadsheets.

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