NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins Friday, November 1 at midnight. What is NaNoWriMo and why should you care?
If you have ever fancied yourself a writer, started a novel (or finished a novel, wanted to start a novel, or gave up on a novel), here is your opportunity to participate in a structured national phenomenon and pursue the Great American (or any other nationality) Novel with tons of support, commiseration and camaraderie.
Writing is a notoriously lonely pursuit, but doing it with thousands of other writers committing to crank out 50,000 words by the end of the month make is a bit less lonely and a lot of fun. There are forums to vent your frustration about characters who won’t behave, write-ins (live and virtual), writing sprints (“Ready? Set? Write for an hour nonstop!”) hosted by pros on Twitter, and lots of opportunities to earn badges (although I’ve never been into the badge culture, personally) and collect great swag!.
You’re not supposed to start writing until November 1 (to do so before is considered “cheating,”) But you will find lots and lots of NaNoWriMo rebels who use the month of November to finish, tweak or edit existing novels already in varied degrees of completion (but you still have to write those 50K words!). And there’s even a forum to support and abet such rebelliousness. (Heck, who ever heard of a writer who wasn’t a bit of a rebel?)
This will be my third NaNoWriMo. Last year I cranked out 60,000 words and nearly completed my first novel. (I finished it in the ensuing months and entered it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards competition — it made it past round one!) I got a cool Twitter avatar, a “winner” badge and some outstanding gifties from sponsors. This year’s swag looks even better!
What NaNoWriMo really taught me was that I can crank out 50,000 words in a month along with my other responsibilities. And that’s led me to other fiction projects, including two (published) short stories and another novel (completed).
The key to writing a NaNoWriMo novel is never look back! Never. Actually that’s pretty good advice for writing any novel’s first draft. Just write. Crank it out. Pound the keyboard, and then dictate into your computer’s transcription software when your hands get too tired to accurately hit the keys. Your first draft is not your final draft. Keep telling yourself that. Do not tweak. Do not go back and fix. Just keep plugging away at that word count (which NaNoWriMo nicely calculates for you as you post).
The beginning might not match the end, rebellious characters get minds of their own and take over doing what they want to do, and not what you demand of them. The setting might change. Just keep going. You can always go back at the end (in fact, I guarantee you will) and edit. After all, most of writing is in the editing anyway, so… Well, you get the point. There’s a reason why teachers call a first draft the “sloppy copy,” and it ain’t for the penmanship.
So head over to NaNoWriMo, set up an account, pull a title from your imagination (or that pesky file of “novel” novel ideas), write an imaginary synopsis and…GO! But don’t start the actual writing ’till November 1. For the record, my novel is called “Okehampton Castle,” and the title is already obsolete, since I change my setting from Southern England to Southeastern Scotland. Oh well. But will I start over? Change the name? Rewrite the synopsis I’ve already posted? Well, technically, it’s not November 1 yet, so the title will probably be refreshed. So… Ready? Set? And on November 1…write!