For the last four years in a row, October rolls around and I make a commitment to undertake NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a worldwide phenomenon where writers pledge to write 50,000 new words during the month of November. It’s a kick starter for your novel. If you hit 50,000 words, you ‘win’ and there are prizes like discount writing software. Sounds amazing, right?
Many published books have started out as a NaNoWriMo project.
NaNoWriMo is a not-for-profit group that supports writers through online writing prompts, writing sprints on twitter, in-person writing sessions all over the world. You just sign and suddenly people in your area are willing to hang out with you while you write that book you’ve been meaning to write for the past ten years (I know you have one in you). They also provide a wealth of support material leading into November (Preptober) like plot development sessions, life-writing workshops, stickers, calendars and merchandise you can purchase to spur you on.
Sign up for you own NaNoWriMo adventure on their website.
So why have I failed NaNoWriMo for the past four years?
This is the thing about writing. It’s hard. It takes time, discipline and mental energy. Gamifying the writing process is one of the most tired and true methods of making progress. All love to see that word count go up, that progress bar fill and change colours. NaNoWriMo takes it to the next level and best of all you aren’t alone (unless you want to be).
My problem has been that my timing has been out for each year I’ve signed up. For the first couple of times I tried, I was still studying and had university deadlines and theoretical content to produce. I simply didn’t have the energy left to find another 1,666.67 words per day of new material. Then I didn’t take it seriously, I flopped about and gave up after a week. Then I was editing a novel. I had a project in mind but I couldn’t get into the headspace of a completely new and vastly different piece of work while I was in the final push to get my book to publication.
The all sound like great excuses, right? They were. I know that if I’d wanted it enough, I would have found a way.
This is year I am determined that my NaNoWriMo attempt will be a success. I have prepped hard. I have a fully fledged story idea. I have a mind-maps and index cards and a goddammed spreadsheet. That’s right. Excel and I have a hate-hate relationship and yet I bent that sucker to my will and whipped up character sheets, plot outlines, setting maps, character arcs and timelines. I have donned my writing geek mantle and am ready for the intense burst of creativity that November is offering. I am going to win.
Of course, you can write a novel without NaNoWriMo. But writing a novel is a commitment to years of work, even for a fast writer. Drafting, redrafting, editing, submitting, editing, editing, editing. This all takes time. Things like writing groups, writing courses and NaNoWriMo segment the process into palatable junks. They make you connected to a community and validate work that no one will see for a long time.
The business of being a writer is solitary and mostly about determination and stamina. NaNoWriMo is a turbo boost to push you through to the end of the year and give you a chunk of work to show for it. This year, I particular, it feels more important than ever to salvage some productivity. To be able to say, this is how I got through 2020.
Best of luck to my fellow NaNoWriMoers. Hopefully we can all report success as we sail into December.
All the best,
I have started a Pinterest page for my NaNoWriMo project, so if you are at all interested you can link through to it here.
Otherwise I will be updating my WIP page on my website as well.