Welcome to the first post in a short series over the next eight weeks, all centered around NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated. If you aren’t familiar with NaNo, it’s the one designated month every year for anyone and everyone to write 50,000 words of a novel. The site allows you to track your progress, and you win by writing the 50k. That’s it.
Except it’s so, so much more. This will be my fifth year to “compete,” and I cannot wait. Technically, you’re supposed to start with a new concept and new novel every year, but I’m using this year to finish the novel I’ve been working on for about year. In fact, I actually started it last year during NaNo, but I had to give up on the project in November because I found out I was moving to NYC a few weeks later and I just didn’t have time.
When I first heard about NaNo, it was something like October 24th–about a week before it began. And yeah, I used to write, but not regularly and certainly not with this sort of tenacity. But I won that first year. It was hard, harder than I thought it would be, but it also taught me so much about writing and, honestly, about myself as a writer and a person. But more on that later.
What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be an experienced writer to do this. All you need is, at the very least, a general idea and the stamina to force yourself to work on it every day. It is indeed 30 days and nights of literary abandon, after all.
If you’re like me, though, you’ll plot out 30 days worth of plot points and ideas to go on, because if you don’t you’ll run out of steam halfway through and then you’re stuck. Because writing NaNo doesn’t mean you have to start with nothing on day one. You can write everything except for the actual novel beforehand. Now is the time to flesh out characters, write down main plot points, weave in your subplots, and make sure you have enough written down that you won’t run out of plot.
And the other thing you’ll need–the stamina to work on it every day? That might be even more important than the plot itself. It has to be 50,000 words, not necessarily 50,000 perfect words. It’s okay for it to be a true first draft. You just have to practice Butt In Chair method and work on it every day. It’s about 1700 words per day, if you average it out. When I was in school, I gave myself a little more leeway over the Thanksgiving holiday because I’d have more time. Now, I’ll have to hold myself more strictly to the timeline.
I mean, we’ll all probably be frantically writing about 5,000 words on the last day, but sometimes that just happens. It’s really all about the fun and the camaraderie with your friends online and in real life, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, it’s just a drill. If you aren’t having fun while you work, maybe you need to try a different tack with your writing. Make it fun. There are only one or two real rules here. Make the story and the month your own. The rest will come.
Anyone else writing NaNo this year? I’m going to be doing a short series on the process beforehand, and doing regular updates during November. As always, I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement, and I hope you are, too! And if you’re thinking about writing NaNo but aren’t quite sure, let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions I can answer–that’s what I want to do this month.