November is dubbed National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo.) I know it’s only October, but I thought I’d write about this to give you a heads up in case you should choose to participate.
What is NaNoWriMo?
“National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.”
You can learn more in the link above, but people all over the world participate. Famous authors give weekly pep-talks to us novice writers. It’s insane. It’s also a lot of fun! I did it two years ago and though what I wrote is completely worthless it was still a worthwhile exercise. Here are a few things I learned.
1. Writing a novel is freakin’ hard. Seriously. A lot of people dream of writing a novel, but not that many people succeed. If you want to know why you can just try NaNoWriMo. From idea to shining book, your hard pressed to find an author who didn’t spend years on their novel. Writing one in a month is lunacy. But then again, I think creative types pride themselves on their eccentric behaviors.
3. Writer’s Boot Camp. To reach this goal you have to meet daily quotas, just over 1600 words a day and more if you plan to take days off. I shot for 2000 words a day and still only finished at about 11:40 PM on the 30th. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re trying to write a novel with plot, subplots, settings, characters and themes all working together to create a coherent story, 1600 words a day is a mountain to climb. Especially if you don’t have the luxury of writing being your full-time job, as most writers do not. So NaNoWriMo is a wake up call to those aspiring to write novels. It’s a great way to build those writing “muscles.”
2. Sometimes you have to just push on. Writer’s block? NaNoWriMo teaches you to just work through it. You don’t have time for writer’s block. You have to meet a daily quota or else your going to fall behind and probably won’t ever catch up. So when you hit a wall, you write whatever nonsense comes out until you meet a logical place. But this can be a good thing. Sometimes writing nonsense opens up our minds to the really good ideas. The good ideas, I have found, are generally shy.
4. Getting that first draft out. The “novel” I wrote for NaNoWriMo really isn’t something I care to revise and polish for possible publication. But I know some writers use it to get ideas down they’ve had in their heads for years and they just need to get out a first draft they can work with. For many the first draft is the most painful part of writing. (Definitely true for me.) It’s the revision process that’s enjoyable and so it makes sense to get the bare bones down as quickly as possible so you can get to the good stuff. NaNoWriMo helps you get it out.
If you’re feeling ambitious, try NaNoWriMo and see what it does for you. Even if what comes out of it is a horrible mess, (very likely) you’ll grow as a writer and learn some valuable lessons. Think of it as a massive writing exercise.
Any Wrimos our there? Anyone brave enough? Come on. You know you want to.