Happy first of November! For most of us, what comes to mind first about this month is Thanksgiving, perhaps followed by thoughts of crisp weather, falling leaves, and Christmas shopping. For others, though, November marks the start of NaNoWriMo – national novel writing month.
If you aren’t aware, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write an entire novel – 50,000 words or more – in the month of November. No writing may be done on the project before November 1, though participants are (strongly!) encouraged to have an outline and characters ready to go. You “win” if you achieve this goal and upload your completed text to the official NaNoWriMo website for word-count verification. In exchange, you get…well, you get a hearty congratulations, a feeling of accomplishment, and some opportunities to get some free/reduced price stuff of the self-publishing description. (Yay?) I have a mental image of thousands of poor souls with fire in their eyes gathering in front of their computers, standing tall, with shoulders back, raising their pens in their writing hand, and declaring in a loud voice, “Hail NaNoWriMo! We who are about to die salute you!” (Then the computer answering back, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” I know, I have a strange imagination.)
Anyway, I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, and likely won’t ever, simply because of the way in which I write, the time I know it takes to write 50,000 words (my first novel, unpublished for good reason and safely hidden from critical eyes, was a whopping 250,000 words, and The Quest of the Unaligned is a far more manageable but still substantial 98,000). I wrote the first rough draft of Quest in a single semester (four and a half months), with the outline and characters completely planned out ahead of time, which resulted in a 65,000 word document. That was what I view as an intense writing schedule. Trying to do most of that in just a month? Not for me.
So for those of you who want to take on the challenge, I commend you. May your words flow swiftly, your ideas be ever fresh, and your glass/mug of a caffeinated beverage of choice be ever full and near to hand. For those of you who are considering whether or not to participate, I’ve heard from participants that there are some real advantages, including:
- A supportive environment with other people to cheer you on to write
- External motivation in the form of set dates and deadlines to meet
- The chance to interact with and learn from other writers
- Social acceptance (at least in some circles) for closeting yourself away from the world for an entire month – especially if your friends are all doing it too
Support, motivation, interaction, and acceptance are all crucial factors in getting a large writing project done, and NaNoWriMo can be a good venue for getting them. But if writing 50,000 words in a month doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry. Novel writing can be a marathon as well as a sprint, and not participating in The National Writing Event of the Year doesn’t mean that you’re a lazy writer or that you don’t take your stories seriously. For every published author who undergoes the stress and pressure of writing a first draft of their book during NaNoWriMo, there are many more who take a long time, pondering their words, writing on the weekends or in between life events, viewing writing as a treat or stress relief rather than as a job to be done. Both ways work for some authors and are a recipe for failure for others. So whichever way you go, be happy with your decision. Cheer on those who are doing NaNoWriMo, cheer on those who are working at their own pace, and encourage those who want to tell a story to start – no matter what time of year it is. May your month be filled with stories and the satisfaction of a choice well made.