Last month, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the third year in a row. The premise is easy to understand; NaNo-ers are to complete 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Each author wannabe has a page, where one can post their profile, synopsis of the work in progress, sample writing and even dream cover designs. There are forums discussing a myriad of writing topics and cheering email sent weekly. A handy graph reveals your progress and that of your writing buddies.
Writing a novel is not as easy as one may think. My first year of NaNo went poorly. I don’t think I wrote a thousand words, much less fifty thousand. My failure was in part because of “real” life. Not many of us are professional writers able to devote entire workdays to writing. Most of us have day jobs, families and other commitments digging into our writing time.
I often refer to my writing life as a clandestine tryst between me and my other love, Writing. If I find two hours of solitary silence where I can concentrate on writing, it’s a rare thing indeed. Writing involves a certain amount of guilt, especially if a week’s worth of dirty laundry is staring at you from across the room.
My other huge problem is that I’m a lazy writer and easily distracted. Writers inhabit a solitary work existence. They need to be self-starters. There is no one on the workroom floor to glare at you and yell you into production. Your only supervisor is YOU. Even going online to ask writing friends a question is dangerous for me, as I tend to wander off to other websites and other tangents. Successful writers need a certain amount of dedication to the craft. Books don’t write themselves.
This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo. It’s the online representation of a writer’s cattle prod.
Some participants wrongly think that the great American novel will miraculously spring from the computers of one of the thousands that use the website as a tracking tool. Actually, NaNoWriMo is only a tool, meant to instill good writing habits. The intention is not to complete a novel in 30 days, but to get as many words down as you can in 30 days.