Saturday is November. It may seem like just another weekend, but for many of us in the writing community, it’s the first day of a brand new novel. Or at least brand new work which can be put toward a novel, like banking words instead of cash. NaNoWriMo—or National Novel Writing Month—is a lot of fun and all it requires is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Yep. That’s it!
Break it down and it doesn’t sound quite so scary. 1,666 words a day. If you’re an experienced writer, 1,666 words is really very little, but it does require that you sit down every day to accomplish that number, otherwise you will have to double, triple, maybe even quadruple your total if you procrastinate. And if you’re like me—jobs, kids, dog, bills—you can’t necessarily spend a Saturday writing 7000 words to make up for your week. Though I have definitely done that.
I won NaNoWriMo in 2010, so this will be my second time “competing”. I quote that because it’s not a competition between writers, it’s more a competition for personal achievement that you share with your fellow writing friends. The first question a lot of people ask is “How did you win?” As an honor system, it’s totally up to you if you want to upload 100 pages of the same sentence or 50,000 “the’s”. But what would be the point of that? A true writer wants to do as decent a job as she can with the time she has. Getting down the framework of a novel, even if she knows it will likely change, is important. And the time restrictions and word count requirements serve as guides and incentives to get the work done. I doubt many participants are looking for ways to get around that. One of the joys of writing is personal satisfaction. There is no personal satisfaction in cheating.
The 50,000 words I wrote in 2010 ended up being fairly competent. In fact, a more developed version of it won 2nd place in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award the following year. While I couldn’t sell it at that time, I set it aside for safekeeping because I was in love with the story and unwilling to give up on it. Little did I know, a few years later, I’d pull that file from the dusty corners of my hard drive, that it would get me into Vermont College of Fine Arts, and that I’d end up rewriting it for my Master’s thesis. It is now a brand new novel and I’m confident it will eventually sell. And those NaNo bones are still there. I’d say November 2010 was well worth my time.
I head into this year’s competition with confidence that I will win again. I have quite a bit less free time than I did in 2010, but since then I’ve earned my MFA and if grad. school teaches you anything it’s that free time can always be found—that it MUST be found if you intend to be successful. Writing demands time management. There is no way to succeed in the publishing business without it. This may be one of the most valuable lessons of NaNo as well. It forces you to set aside expectations of perfected work and just write your heart out. Say no to social life for a month. But have fun. Be creative. You never know, you may just get a brand new story out of it.
And who knows where that story will take you.