National Novel Writing Month

In a little over a week, NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month, will begin. The goal of this one-month writing marathon is to write 50,000 words, hopefully a rough draft of your next novel. If you break that down to days, it comes to about 1,666 words.

When I first contemplated taking the challenge, those numbers gave me pause. I didn’t think I could do it. I’d already been working on one book for over a year and had only half that number of words written.

The idea, however, was enticing. I went online and read about this strange concept. It seems that we’re not supposed to write a finished book in this amount of time, just the bones of a story that, for some people, has lead to a finished novel. Apparently, writing quickly, without bowing to our built-in critic, allows us to let our imagination fly and gives our story and characters the freedom to expand.

Nano calendarI decided to try it. If I had to do it alone, I’m sure I would have quit. But, I didn’t have to do it alone. The NANOWRIMO site will introduce you to writers from your geographical area, or you can make up a group of your own. I went online with some people I knew. Some groups met in person. Others, like me, kept tabs online. The realization that I didn’t have to do it alone made all the difference. 

Working together with a group, offers not only encouragement but also friendly competition. At the end of each day, I would enter my word total and check to see how everyone else had done. Totals varied. At first, I was able to keep pace with my colleagues, but half way through the month, life intruded. My numbers tanked. I went online to see how well my teammates were doing. Surprise! I wasn’t the only one who had hit the proverbial wall. Others on the team had also posted low numbers. My enthusiasm returned. I found the courage to continue.

Everyone works their writing experience differently. For me the basic plot came first. I worked out a story line in my head. Then I made a rough outline. Next, I tackled my calendar. I went day by day, as I estimated how much time I could devote to writing. I tried my best to stick to the numbers, but I didn’t beat myself up if I came in under estimate. Some days I had only a few hundred words, but, on weekends, I could do a few thousand. Every night I updated my total on the site and checked to see how my team was doing. During the month, I received inspiration from the NANORIMO crew, who sent messages of encouragement. I also received many “You can do it!” cheers from members of my own team.

At the end of the thirty days, I finished with over 50,000 words. Those 50,000 words worked into a 70,000 word story that is currently out to beta readers. The second time I attempted NANOWRIMO, I made a more thorough outline. That book is going through its second edit.

Since the month-long concept had worked so well for me, I attempted to try it within the confines of a six-week class at a nearby college. That story is still unfinished. The classroom experience was too different from NANOWRIMO. I was doing it alone without the daily contact of my peers, and it didn’t work. For me, walking through the difficult times with a group of writers to cheer me on made all the difference. NANOWRIMO is an incredible experience.

You’ve got a few days until November. Why don’t you try it? What’s the worst that can happen? You only get 30, 000 words in the month? That’s half a novel. What’s wrong with that? Sounds like a Win/Win situation to me. Why not give it a try?

Good luck!

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