I’d like to interrupt our usual weekly post with a quick reminder about something I try to do every year, and that I think you should try.
National Novel Writing Month is, put simply, an international attempt to write a novel in the month of November. Realistically, the goal is set to 50k words (or 1,666 a day), so at the end you should have enough words to make up a small novel. It’s a hectic experiment about putting yourself out there and losing whatever inhibitions you have (like trying to write well) that stops you from having output.
Essentially, when it comes to writing, the hardest part for most people seems to be that first draft. Once you have that, the process comes down to editing and rewriting which isn’t as difficult as creating something from nothing. So NaNoWriMo is a bit of an excuse to try and practice daily word production to get those words on paper without worrying about editing or perfection; it is self-permission to write dangerously.
There’s a large community surrounding the month that you can find on the website forums or on social media like Facebook and Reddit. A huge part of the fun is the communal aspect, getting into word sprint contests or discussing writing in general. Having that community helps to keep you on track and in the spirit of the month. Even better, most regions have local groups. Lexington, the city where I live, has a very robust community that organizes write-ins at local coffee shops and libraries as well as other events like over-night writes and parties to help keep everyone moving.
I highly recommend the experience at least once. Even if you fail you learn a lot about yourself and your processes. Practicing a daily writing routine is a huge boon, and getting used to doing that is better than almost anything else you can bring to the table with learning the craft of writing. Even if you’re not a ‘writer’ or haven’t thought about trying to write, it can be a very interesting challenge because the goal isn’t to write well. The goal is simply to write.
It’s hard, I will warn you. I become an over-caffeinated mess, my cheery optimism morphing into jittery writing fanaticism and eventually into morose despair, and I quite often fail to “win”. But it is also a lot of fun, even those years I do fail. And the years that I make the goal, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Every year I try to get people to do it because it’s something different to try to break the monotony and might inspire you on to greater things. You also make connections with a lot of great people.
To get started, here’s the About page on the website. Make sure to set yourself a Home Region to see if other local authors are setting up events and write ins. Also make sure to check out the forums or the subreddit here.
My personal advice on how to approach the month is as follows:
- Let everyone around you know that you are doing it, so that the shame of failure spurs you on.
- Give yourself permission to break your normal routine to get writing done. Make sure to set aside some time during the day to close your office/bedroom door, silence your phone, and write like mad -and let anyone in your house know that during this period any interruptions will be met with an animal roar or a thrown book.
- Go places to write. A change in scenery can help spur creativity, and it forces you to remember to shower.
- All writing counts. Let yourself go on tangents that probably won’t make it in the final manuscript. These could lead to other projects or might lead to something that can be included in your project.
- Get involved in the community. I can’t stress this enough. The years that I have won have been a direct result of communicating on social media with people in my local group, attending write ins, and participating in word sprints. It works, and it works well.
- Use October to preplan if you can. This could be a robust outline of every chapter or simply just some notes about what you want to do. There’s a bit of a sectarian aspect in the Nano community between people that “plan” (planners) or people that “pants” (pansters) which means not doing an outline. Different methods work for different people, but I would suggest for your first time to at least have a notion about your story and characters so as to not get paralyzed with fear at the sight of the blank word processor page.
- Have fun with it. Do crazy things. Give up adulting for just one month as much as you are able.
- Friend me on the website, my user name is Number1TheLarch.
Next week we return to Using Skills with Investigation.