It’s nearly time again for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). The rules are simple. Write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. Sounds fun, right?
Or not. It’s either fun, or it’s sick. Since I’ve done it five years now, I must either get something from it, or I must be a masochist. (By the way, I only succeeded in writing 50,000 words one year out of those five.)
If you’re like me, writing a 50,000-word novel in a month may sound daunting at first. But let me list a few facts about NaNoWriMo that may help put it in perspective:
- It’s a game. The only thing at stake is a winner’s certificate, a web badge, and maybe your soul.
- The goal is 50,000 or more words, not a completed novel.
- Nobody is going to check your work or read your story (unless you want them to).
- Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is fewer than 1,700 words a day.
- Nowhere in any of the rules or discussions is any mention made of the 50,000 words being good. On the contrary.
These facts segue nicely into some tips I’d like to share:
- It’s a game. The spirit of this is to get people writing with abandon, to get words on paper (or screen), not to create literature.
- Everything about NaNoWriMo is on the honor system. You could write “the” 50,000 times and the only one who would know is you.
- The key is consistency. Writing every day makes this far easier.
- You may as well accept that the 50,000 words you write will include a high percentage of crap. It may all be crap. But chances are, some of it will be gold.
Regardless of what you produce during that time, if it gets you writing consistently and freely, that has value in itself.
If you’re a writer, you may feel some trepidation at the sight of a blank page. Or, you may have trouble being consistent. Maybe you write when the mood strikes you. Perhaps you worry over stuff you’ve already written and go back to edit it.
Guess what? None of those things will serve you in NaNoWriMo, and that’s the beauty of it.
In other words, attempting NaNoWriMo is an AFGO.
So, I invite you writerly-inclined folks out there to give this a try if you haven’t already. You can sign up at nanowrimo.org (it’s all free) and get ready to start writing at 12:00:01 am November 1st.
As for me, I have never planned out a story ahead of time (though some people do). The only plan I have is to approach the writing in the spirit of improv:
- Say “Yes!” to myself and to whatever comes out on the page.
- Celebrate the mistakes I make (of which there will be thousands).
- Let go of control and follow the story wherever it may go.
- Have fun!
So, will you try it this year? Have you done nanowrimo before? Any tips from your own experience?
If you decide to play this game in November, you won’t be alone. Last year more than 200,000 people participated and more than 30,000 made it to 50,000 words. So, come play with us!