It begins in 7 days. A month of caffeine, solitude, and hunched shoulders over a keyboard. A month where you will probably become a bit of a recluse, and then emerge 30 days later holding up your hand against this strange thing called “sunlight.” I’m talking, of course, about NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, where writers (both old and new) are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo twice. The first time, I “won” — aka, I completed a 50,000 manuscript within 30 days. And oh man, that month — the highest highs and the lowest lows. But at the end, I had completed the first draft of The Abridged Journal of Theodore Motts.
The second time I participated… well, I cheated. Sort of! You see, the rules of NaNoWriMo dictate that you must write a new and original work within those 30 days — nothing you’ve started before November, and no re-hashing of old work. Well, I decided to bend the rules for my own purposes, and used that 30-day time constraint to edit Theodore Motts. And it worked REALLY well — I edited the whole thing, rewrote large sections, and got it closer towards an actual, functioning novel.
This year… well, I’m cheating again. I’M SORRY OK! I really truly did want to participate “correctly” in NaNoWriMo this year — but I gotta finish The Work In Progress. BUT. I will again be using the 30-day sprint towards my own purposes, commandeering the momentum of NaNoWriMo to inspire me to WRITE WRITE WRITE. If all goes well… who knows, by the end of November I could finish this damn thing.
Now, just because I am not officially participating in NaNoWriMo does not mean YOU shouldn’t. Yes, 30 days sounds like a short period of time — and it is. CRAZY short. But it was one of the more rewarding experiences of my life. If you need encouragement, here are my 6 reasons why you should sign up and get writin’:
- During NaNoWriMo, you have to write a 50,000 novel in 30 days. Ok, stay with me here — I know that seems like a lot. But when you break it down, it’s only 1,667 words per day — NO NO WAIT STAY WITH ME. 1,667 words per day isn’t all that crazy. When I’m in a good writing zone, I can crank out 1,000 words in about 40 minutes. So 1,667 words a day? Totally doable. And if you miss one day, not the end of the world. Just crank ’em out the next Saturday.
- It really helps to get those 1,667 words a day if you have some sort of outline. Pre-writing is against the NaNoWriMo rules, but outlining is encouraged. I did not outline Theodore Motts. Oh, how I wish I had. Those 1,667 words a day (and later revisions) would have come a lot easier. You don’t need a fully fleshed outline — a skeleton will do.
- NaNoWriMo provides you with a really good excuse to be selfish. “Oh, you want me to attend your dog’s birthday party? I’d love to, but I’m so sorry, I have to work on my novel.”
- Speaking of that phrase, “I have to work on my novel” — NaNoWriMo provides you with the opportunity to announce your intentions to the world: “I am a writer, and I take my craft seriously.” When you tell people, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I have to work on my novel” (and yes, you will have to tell people this), you are telling them how important this whole writing thing is to you. They may be surprised — chances are you haven’t told them before.
- NaNoWriMo brings together a LOT of writers, and because of that, OMG there is SO much excitement and enthusiasm and encouragement (and other ‘E’ words I can’t think of). There will be so many people, literally all over the world, cheering you on.
- Near the end of the month, you reach this weird high. You’re a little bit sleep deprived, a lotta bit “social interaction” deprived — but you have this thing that is building momentum. You have a book, which you are so close to completing (at least in a rough form). Completing that first draft is the best feeling in the world.
A word of warning: you will experience NaNoWriMo withdrawal in December. As weird as it may sound, you get sort of addicted to that mad dash — to the sense that you’re really accomplishing something. Suddenly, come December 1, you stop cranking out 1,667 words per day. You’re able to reclaim your life. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel a little bit lost.
BUT. The good news is. NaNoWriMo may just give the push you need to incorporate writing more into your daily life. Pretty soon after my first NaNoWriMo, I decided to join a writing group. The whole crazy experience made me realize that if I ever wanted to get any work published, I needed to take this writing thing more seriously, which meant writing more consistently and getting involved in a writing community outside my own office.
If you were on the fence about NaNoWriMo before — GO SIGN UP! Just do it. I won’t be “officially” in it with you, but I will be on crazy-mad writing sprints. We can become reclusive writer shut-ins together, if only for 30 days.