For those that may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During this month, should you participate in NaNoWriMo, you are challenged as an author to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. You can practically hear the pencils etching, pens scribbling, and fingers typing furiously across the world since the challenge began four days ago. You can find the official NaNoWriMo site here.
No matter what way you dice it 50,000 words is one daunting goal to hit in thirty days. The average necessary word count per day is 1,667, and your average 5-page college paper is roughly 1500 words or less, if that puts it into any perspective for you. Since I graduated this past May, I still vividly remember late night paper writing sessions where I cranked out each every one of a 1500+ word paper in a night…so it’s that experience multiplied by thirty, and unfortunately, the only way you will be able to have a day off or enjoy the Holiday is to plan ahead and have a few days where you double your word count, if not more…As I said, daunting, but absolutely possible.
My first try at NaNoWriMo is, ironically, the only time I’ve won so far, and I honestly wasn’t particularly thrilled with my last 30-40,000 words, to the point where I still have trouble saying that I “won” anything that year other than entry into the awesome existence of NaNoWriMo, which I can live with. Anyway, that was in 2010 or 2011. I vainly tried again in 2013, and truly I say vainly because it was appalling timing. November is a hot month for school papers and my attention was sorely split and well, I had money riding on getting a degree so NaNo lost that one.
So finally, this year, I am giving NaNoWriMo a more planned and prepared go. My profile can be found here and I’m welcome to having more writing buddies! At four days in I’ve already managed to stumble into a veritable writing bog that I’ve been slowly wading through so I must redouble my efforts to push ahead.
Even though we’re a few day in, it’s never too late to start and definitely never too late to find some new resources. An excellent source I found is a compilation of indexes from Writer’s Digest, which I utilized to help get some of the more important aspects of my novel-to-be down, and so far they’ve been infinitely useful; those can be found here. If you haven’t ever utilized worksheets like this, you should do yourself a favor and give them a shot. At the very least they can help get your brain moving in the right direction. A complete copy of how to write your novel in 30 days can be found here.
I learned a lot from the last two times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo and I’m sure I’ll learn even more this time. Going forward though, here are a few things that I think are important to know and to remember about NaNoWriMo:
- Plan ahead– from the obvious suggestion to strategize and outline character sketches and plot points, to letting your family and friends know what you are attempting so they don’t get worried when you disappear for the better part of a month, planning goes a long way in your bag of tools for completing this challenge and your novel. Especially since November includes a holiday for those in the US, planning ahead can be your rescue.
- You’re probably going to fall behind, at least for a little bit– That first rush of words to page is exhilarating!! And you should absolutely celebrate every goal you set for yourself and meet. It gives you encouragement and a feeling of accomplishment. However, don’t let it distress and depress you when you find yourself six, eight, twelve hours later and only four miserable words further in count. At some point, this is probably going to happen. Even when you have a fantastic idea you’re excited about, chances are a time will come when you’re not making as much progress. It can be really disheartening, but you have to remember that if you keep at it (after giving yourself a break), you’ll make it through and start racking up the words again.
- This is part one on the path to a complete and ready to publish novel- You are going to be over the moon once you hit that 50,000 word mark, even more so when you reach whatever is the magic number you end your tale on, and you should!! You will need to before you return to your lair and begin the next harrowing process which is a first read through, edit and revision, so you can do it all again till it’s THE story you want to put out there. Don’t rush it.
- It’s never too late to start– Yes, technically if you just hear about NaNoWriMo on the 29th of November and decide you want to do it *right now*, you probably aren’t going to hit 50,000 words in one 24-hour period (if by some strange cosmic event you manage it….I’d like to chat…). But really, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter if you’re coming in a bit late to the game. The point really is that you want to be here and are willing to try, and that’s AMAZING! The best part is that, while you can always wait till next year and regroup with writing buddies and soldier forth the next time NaNoWriMo comes along, you can, and that’s awesome! But you can also take what you learn from the experience and use it *any* month, including one that gives you an extra day 😛
- Have fun and give yourself some credit- This is particularly important for so many reasons. If your inner voice can be anything as cruel as mine (and I’m sure there are some contenders), you need to remember that, while this is a challenge, you should be trying to enjoy yourself. Be proud of what you are able to do, and don’t be too hard on yourself for anything you don’t manage. You can always keep trying, and that makes all the difference.
NaNoWriMo is one hell of a challenge, but with a good attitude, an idea you’re passionate about, and especially with a good, supportive writing community, you can make it happen! Now get to work!