Lots of exciting stuff has been going on with me lately, but for now there’s one thing on my mind: today’s date. It’s November first! Hope everyone had a nice, relaxing Halloween, cause for us writers (who participate) it’s about to get busy!
One of the great joys of November is NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve participated on a few occasions, winning in my first year and falling short ever since (but that’s another post for another day). For those who don’t know, the object is to write a novel within the month of November, with novel being defined as 50,000 words.
NaNo organizers encourage writers to plot, do their research, and outline to their hearts content before the event begins, but to keep the novel a blank page until November first rolls around. Once it does the race begins with Wrimos (the name given to participants) writing an average of 1667 words a day to meet the goal. Many NaNo novels are done this way, but not all, and yours certainly doesn’t have to be.
One of the best parts of NaNoWriMo for me is the pep talks from established authors. Their words of encouragement gave me more hope than any other outside source in my first attempt at writing a novel. But that’s not all, there are forums where people can talk about their works, and even regions for participants to organize write ins!
While NaNo officials may have their idea on how the month should go, don’t feel bound by their rules. Indeed, some of the best advice I got in a pep talk was from Patrick Rothfuss (author of the King Killer Chronicles) who encouraged people to break the rules and write whatever they wanted. Want to use the month to rewrite a novel? Go ahead. Want to stop accumulating words and edit mid month? Have at it. Instead of one novel you want to write a series of novellas? Sounds great! The path you take as a writer is entirely yours, and NaNoWriMo is just another tool on you journey.
Which brings me to the biggest advantage and help I’ve gained from previous years I participated. As writers we’ve often heard the same old advice. ‘Want to write better? Write more.’ We’re told to expand our efforts and learn new techniques, to read genres we would not typically read and learn from them, and to just read more in general, but one of the things I hear more than any other piece of advice is to write every single day. Even if I’m tired. Even if I’m cranky. Even if it’s only five minutes before bed and it feels like nothing really got done. Write every single day. That’s a hard habit to get into, and it’s also what NaNoWriMo demands of you.
Writing 50,000 words in a month is no small order, and the best way to accomplish it is to write (1667 words) every single day. It’s far and away the best habit I got out of the experience. Even though the novel I produced was garbage, and it was, there was a lot I learned from the experience. If you haven’t tried NaNoWriMo before it might be an idea. Looking at writing from different angles and trying different things is how we learn and how we become better. I’ll be participating this year, rewriting my current novel in progress. It’s demanded a major overhaul, so I should be able to get to the 50,000 word finish line. Hopefully I’ll see you there! Happy writing.
C R Alexander