For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. Hence the acronym NaNoWriMo. The challenge, put out by the Office of Letters and Lights (OLL) in California, and undertaken by literally hundreds of thousands of people, is to write 50,000 words in a month. Yep, 50,000. In one month. Just as a point of comparison, a relatively short full novel is approximately 60,000-70,000 words. The point is to get a jump start on the novel you always meant to write.
This is absolutely something you “win” but you win it for yourself, not for the outside validation. There’s no guaranteed publication deal or even editing assistance. Those things come later – much later. In addition, you keep track of it yourself – there’s no taskmaster whipping you do get it done.
All that being said, the OLL has a great NaNoWriMo website that allows you to keep up with buddies who are also undertaking the challenge and has had some pretty amazing authors come in to write pep talks for the “wrimos”. There are also meet-ups, so that wrimos in various locations can get together to write. I get emails daily from the crew writing in Osaka, Japan, where they regularly plan writing-themed events.
The whole thing started in 2000 with 140 writers and now, twelve years later, they are up to more than 250,000 writers. Somewhere between 13-20 percent of participants cross the finish line and win.
This is my third time in the past four years doing NaNoWriMo. I’m keeping up a good pace with my word counts and writing pretty much daily. The first time I did it in 2008, I edited the novel carefully and was able to send it to agents. I got some great feedback on it – no bites, but great feedback. I think if I put it through another editing process, it would get even better. The second time I did it, I finished the novel, but it needs a ton of work. I touch it up in fits and starts. I will finish it someday. And I don’t yet know how this one will end. I hope I have the wherewithal to not only finish the month successfully, but also to finish the process and see the book through to completion.
One big difference for me this year was planning. I spent a LOT of time the last two weeks of October planning. I sketched out each character and wrote a plot outline. I also gave myself twenty specific tasks to complete over 20 days, figuring about 2000 words apiece, sometimes more, sometimes less. Doing all of that ahead of time really gave me a jump start. Following the rules strictly, I never actually wrote even one sentence of the novel until November 1st. Everything I did prior to that was only planning and only hand-written, in fact. The planning, however, has made everything so much easier.
So now, for the next two weeks, I expect my blog posts to be a bit shorter and everything else in my life to take a bit of a back seat as I work to finish what I’ve started so nicely. Goals are good – especially when they’re thought out. Thank you NaNoWriMo!