The National Novel Writing Month has been under way for six days. If you haven’t heard about this before, let’s start with a quick summary:
- Starts every year at midnight of November 1, depending on your time zone
- Writers all over the world in all different languages
- 50,000 words in 30 days
- Start out with a blank sheet and write a novel if you’re a purist (or be a rebel and start with an outline, write poems or journals or whatever floats your boat)
- Connect with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people in the forums, in online write-in groups, even offline meetups if The Corona permits it
- Cheer on your fellow Wrimos and let the spirit help you through dire straits in this formidable writing adventure
- Finish a whole freaking novel after 30 days by midnight November 30
I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo on and off in the past ten years or so, and posted here on my blog about the advantages and fun of creating together and how committing to a NaNoWriMo project can be helpful in difficult times.
NaNoWriMo is different for everyone. In the forums you’ll find people bulldozing their way through November by writing 10,000 words a day and more. You’ll find groups that meet up once or twice daily to write in short spurts of 20 minutes and build up their projects slowly but steadily. You’ll find people who write 48 hours on their weekends to make up for time lost during school or work days. And you will find everything in between.
Starting out with a new project is always exhilarating. The first few scenes come flying off the top of your head, and it’s all smooth sailing. But writing 1,667 words a day is no small feat. A few days into the affair, you might start dreading the next day. Will I be able to do it again? Will the words come to me? Especially, if everyday life is taxing, you might find yourself exhausted, and you can’t imagine going on, not even for a single line of text…
And yet it feels so great seeing how your project grows so fast into a full-blown novel! And you start bargaining with yourself. Maybe just another paragraph? Another page? This might be the perfect moment to log into the forums and bathe in encouraging posts from other Wrimos who’ve been there and done that. You’re not in this alone. Even with everyone writing their own projects, NaNoWriMo is not an individual sport—it’s a team game!
50,000 words in 30 days is the goal, and it really doesn’t matter how you get there.
All that counts is that you have fun doing it. You might try one way the first week and another way the next, thus finding out what suits your personality and schedule best. And if that’s still not enough? Don’t beat yourself up. What counts is that you gave it a try, and better luck next time! There are NaNo Camps in April and July each year, and other possibilities to prep or edit throughout the year.
The 50,000 words marathon
Participants use NaNoWriMo for all kinds of writing, but initially it was created to help novelists through camaraderie–to get over writing blocks and get this thing done. Writing a whole novel is an experience quite unlike any other form of art. For novelists, a sense of achievement is hard to come by.
Traditionally, writers would stoop over their work in seclusion, chipping away on this giant block of marble day after day after day… For months and months, and more often than not even for years without anyone else ever reading it.
In the beginning, this shiny new plot baby seems like a treasure trove, and you write the first few chapters, the first 50 pages, on the fly. It’s taxing work, but it feels so satisfying. Then one day you look up after a couple of hours of intent work—weary, but happy—and realize there are 250 pages more to go. And that’s not counting various rounds of editing later. That’s when reality hits you with a vengeance: if you’re going to keep this up, it’ll take forever. And nobody will ever give you credit for it.
From now on, the task of sitting down before your work in progress and picking up
the thread becomes more and more daunting. You start finding excuses to skip a day or two, or a week, or a month. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself staring at the date you started the project and realize that was three years ago when the kids started kindergarten. By now the glitter is long gone, and you’re beginning to hate your protagonists and the whole story plot. You don’t even care for contemporary women’s fiction anymore! Why not start with this exciting new Steampunk story, instead? What a magnificent idea!
Only, it’s not.
You’ll just end up in the same old drenches, and you know it. So, what better way is
there? You guessed that right! Instead in months and years, why not finish a first draft in weeks? In 30 days to be exact. Because a story that’s been put on the pages can be edited later, but if you never get anything down in the first place, well…
A fight or flight state of mind
In short, that’s why I am taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I don’t want this
novel to go to waste, and I’ve learned the hard way it’s better to get that novel out of my head in one gruesome month rather than dreadful eternity.
What’s more, I’ve learned that short spurts of 20-minute-sessions are not for me. Rather, I do best when I sit down around 8 o’clock at night and start hacking away
at the keyboard before the clock strikes midnight. Cue in some instrumental epic fantasy music and the game is on. There’s no time to lose. Can’t afford to hesitate or edit. I need to get this done—now—or it won’t count for the day.
Better yet, there’s no time to question myself, or rationalize. My subconscious—call it muse if you must—will take over and lead me down those mysterious paths which a sober mind would overlook. This is how the magic happens! And this is how after 30 days you end up with a manuscript of 50,000 pages that are worth shaping into a novel later.
As I’m writing this post it is November 6, 2022. If you feel like giving the NaNo a
try—let’s buddy up! Send me a note and I will send you an invitation.