NaNoWriMo: 5 Writing Lessons That I Knew Before, But Know Much Better Now

Writer Cherie Haas

Writer Cherie Haas

A few weeks ago, I had never heard of National Novel Writing Month, although I’ve been somewhat lazily writing a book for a year in my free time (Lesson 1: don’t wait for free time). Then one day when I was busily browsing posts on Facebook, I got a notification; someone had shared a link on my timeline. How lovely! I clicked and saw a poster image of my local library’s NaNoWriMo events for the month. I had no idea what this meant, but was honored that my husband’s aunt had thought of me when she saw this; I know because that was her comment (Lesson 2 learned: once you tell people that you’re writing a book, they’ll hold you to it, for better or for worse.).

After learning what all the fuss was about, I committed. 50,000 words, this month. Let’s do this! My war cry in place, I looked at the material that I had come up with so far, and realized that the past year had been preparing me for this dive into reality. I had already written 22,000 words, but these words were only brown, shapeless clay; and since November 1 I’ve been motivated to sculpt them, to give my characters voices, to give my story a plot, and to actually write an outline so that I would know where in the heck everything was going (Lesson 3: it’s good to have an outline so that you know where in the heck everything is going.).


I’ve been sleeping on the left side of the bed for 13 years, with my husband sleeping on the right side (I had strategically chosen the side that’s farthest from the nightstand that supports our alarm clock). But after waking up in the middle of the night on November 2 with my mind churning out ideas that were too golden to let go, then falling back asleep and forgetting everything, I made an executive decision; we must switch sides. With that, I placed a notebook and pen on the nightstand and let my unconsciousness do some of the work for me (Lesson 4: do keep a journal handy at night; what’s to lose?), batted my eyelashes and smiled sweetly when he only slightly complained about the new sleeping arrangement.

I’ve also reinforced the phrase “blood or fire” for my children, something that I taught them back when I had my own studio space in our home (which is now a bedroom, until my youngest turns 18). It means “don’t disturb me unless there is blood or fire.” When this has been tested in the past, I’ve been known to ask, “how much blood?” (Lesson 5: give yourself and your craft a healthy dose of respect and serious quality time.)

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, this is happening. I am writing a book. I have a story to tell, and I’m not fooling around any more. In addition to NaNoWriMo, two other things have helped push me this month: family/friends (thanks again, Aunt Tonya!), and the daily free giveaways from Writer’s Digest. I’ve been secretly stalking the WD Facebook page and downloading the freebies. One of my favorites so far has been the 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them.” By reading, with a writer’s eye, the various plots that exist, I was able to choose the one that best fit my own story and then follow the guidelines that support that plot. It’s been invaluable.

The moral of the story? You have nothing to lose. Write. Rely on your friends and family to hold you accountable. Make changes in your life so that you can write, and let your story be known.

50,000 or bust,
Cherie Haas

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Check out my humor book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl.
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

You might also like:

One thought on “NaNoWriMo: 5 Writing Lessons That I Knew Before, But Know Much Better Now


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.