NaNoWriMo or Bust!
Happy NanoWriMo, everyone!
I've been a regular NaNoWriMo participant for the past five years. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the event, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” It’s an annual event where thousands of writers from around the globe accept the challenge of writing an entire 50,000-word novel within 30 days.
The main event is held every November, but in recent years they've begun hosting "Camp NaNoWriMo" every April and July. The camp events are much more laid back. During camp, you don't have to commit to writing a full 50,000 words. Instead, you have the option of setting your own word goal. Or, you could choose to edit a pre-exisiting manuscript.
Now, I’d like to clarify something. NaNoWriMo (and Camp NaNoWrimo) isn’t about writing a masterpiece. No. Instead the focus of the event is “quantity over quality.” The basic idea is that a lot of writers out there want to write novels but they feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the challenge. They don't know where to start. NaNoWriMo is a great way to break through those limitations.
The point of the event is to have fun. The lesson to be learned is that the hardest step of the writing process is when you first sit down in front of a blank page. NaNoWriMo teaches you that it’s not about how you fill it. The idea is to simply get into the habit of writing something, anything.
Ideally, by the end of the month you'll have a completed rough draft of your novel or other writing process. Once you've got some words on paper, you've got something to work with. Post NaNoWriMo, writers will have plenty of time to edit, revise, polish, and improve upon their initial draft.
NaNoWriMo isn't about writing a masterpiece. It's about pushing past your obstacles and writing your first draft.
Besides, no one writes great literature of the first try-- not even the literary giants. And, insisting on perfect on the first go-round is the best way to discourage yourself from continuing to try. After all, a first draft is simply a first try. The really good story doesn’t start to emerge until later-- when you start to edit your manuscript.
Writing is all about practice and revision. NaNoWriMo is simply a fun way to plunge in feet first into a story. Don’t worry about making it great on the first try. All you have to do is write the story down. You can go back later-- after you’ve hit your 50,000 word goal-- to edit and make the story better.
For me, one of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is the online community. The webpage provides a variety of helpful features for writers. For instance, it functions like social hub for NaNoWriMo participants around the world. The online forums where writers can discuss a variety of writing related topics, offer suggestions, ask for advice, and offer encouragement to fellow writers. You can also send private messages back and forth with fellow participants.
My favorite feature is the stats page. I like to update my word count periodically throughout each day of the month. As I update my word count, the webpage inputs the data into a spreadsheet that allows me to track my progress. It'll let me know how many words per day I've currently averaging, the number of words I'll need to write per day in order to finish on time, and an estimated date for hitting my 50,000 word goal.
Throughout the month the NaNoWriMo founders will send out pep talks to participants. I love these! They're always filled with inspirational advice and encouragement. Plus, they often get well known authors to participate.
Then, after I've reached your writing goal for the month, I love to visit the NaNoWriMo shop. The event is hosted by a non-profit group, so I know that any money I spend goes to a good cause. They have t-shirts, coffee mugs, and a variety of books available for sale. I like to treat myself at the end of the month.
Fun Themes & A Challenge
Each year, the NaNoWriMo hosts choose a new theme. Since I've been participating, some of my favorite themes have included the year that all of the graphics featured people in suits of armor (the writers) battling dragons (their writing projects) and the year that they used old school computer game graphics. The characters were pixelated and brought back memories of playing Mario Bros with friends as a kid.
So, who’s with me? NaNoWriMo kicks off on November 1st. I challenge each and every one of you to give it a try. Even if you don't reach 50,000 words, you'll at least finish the month with the beginning of a draft. Any progress is good!
Let's do this!
PS-- I’ll be writing under my usual online pen name “Reprieve26.” Feel free to look me up on the National Novel Writing Month web page. You should be able to keep track of my progress (the number of words I’ve written so far). You can also visit with me in the forums. See you there!