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National Novel Writing Month: To NaNo, or not WriMo
Happy almost-National-Writing-Month, fellow writers!
The first time I heard about the National Novel Writing Month I thought it was some tradition, like the 4th of July, that I wasn't aware of. I never expected it to be the famous NaNoWriMo! I so often hear about how NaNoWriMo supposedly change lives. I wasn't very informed about what it was, I just kept hearing this stories about how people would write an entire novel in a month. At first, I found it difficult to believe. But the more I researched it, the more I understood that it is possible to write a novel in 30 days!
You have probably heard, or read about the famous NaNoWriMo, too. Perhaps, like me, you never paid too much attention to it, until now.
What is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a massive creative writing project held around the world. The project consists in writing a novel in a month. Crazy, right? Well the objective is more about writing the first draft of your novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is described as a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing” by its website. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month. The challenge starts November 1st, and ends at 11:59 PM on November 30th.
Just who started with this crazy, but interesting concept? The project is led by a non profit organization, formerly known as Office of Letters and Light. NaNoWriMo started in 1999 with 21 members writing in order to become the equivalent of rock stars. Seriously, their words, not mine. Regardless of their reasons to start writing, they end up writing passable novels in a very short period of time. In that moment they believed that if they could do it, perhaps many others could too. The members of the organization never imagined the impact their event would have by the year of 2013. Last year's NaNoWriMo had 310,095 participants from varied professional backgrounds, who by the end of November, walked away as novelists.
With a mission statement that reads: “National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels”; this organization promise writers to empower and encourage them into becoming authors by the end of November.
This year's NaNoWriMo expects to have 400,000 participants across 6 continents. For 2014 they have 816 volunteers that will transform their local coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, and other places into writing heavens. As every year, the NaNoWriMo will give a voice to writers from diverse backgrounds, because they believe all stories matter.
Advantages vs Disadvantages
Many argue that NaNoWriMo is the greatest event of the year, and are in love with it. However, many others despise the event and urge writers around the globe not write a NaNo novel. Supporters of NaNoWriMo affirm that the advantages of this program are many. Here are some of the most popular ones.
NaNoWriMo is designed to finish the first draft of a novel in a month. The deadline of November 30 at 11:59 PM helps writers to feel a little more pressured to finish what they set to accomplish.
Writers can receive tons of support from their communities and fellow Wrimos. NaNoWriMo has communities that meet around cities to write, discuss writing, and cheer on one another. More than often, writers might find support in these communities, since encountering other writers in the same situation can be comforting. Also, writers can find support from the forums at the NaNoWriMo web page and social media.
And speaking of meeting other writers, some of these communities are huge, imagine how many writers you can meet, and how many new writer friends you can make. This gives you the chance to network with other writers in your area, which can be very helpful, not to mention fun,
However, NaNoWriMo can have its disadvantages too. The main argument that NaNo haters give is that you are basically using a month of your life to write bad quality content. Since the program focuses in quantity and not quality, many writers feel like this is a waste of time. NaNoWriMo is meant to help writers write beyond their inner critics and conquer writer's block and other issues. The problem is that many writers don't edit their manuscripts before sending them out to editors, agents, an so on. Genius! No wonder agents hate the fact that you write “NaNoWriMo” in your query letters. You are supposed to edit your work, and rewrite that novel at least twice before sending out your work to an agent, or before you self publish. Please, if you plan to sign up for the NaNoWriMo euphoria, edit your work after wards. We seriously don't need any more bad books.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo
If you are one of the crazy writers that will be joining NaNoWriMo this year there are a few things you might want to keep in mind before you start.
- Plan Ahead
Weather you are a writer that plans or just likes to go with the flow, you might want to have a little outline hanging around. An outline might help with inconsistencies in your novel, and save you a bunch of headaches. If you refuse to make an outline, you can keep a character cheat sheet. This will help you remember names, height, weight and other fun facts about your characters. That way you won't start changing your characters' names mid story, or make some drastic changes to their anatomies.
- Get Support
I don't only mean support from your NaNoWriMo community. That can be a huge help as we mentioned before. You should get support from your family and friends. Ask someone in your house hold to cheer you on, give you a pat on the back when you accomplish your personal goals, or kick your butt when you're slacking. Writing a novel in a month is not easy, so a little bit of extra support and tough love can be very helpful.
- Find your writing space
If you are one of those fortunate writers that have a home office, great. You are done with this step. Perhaps clean up your writing space, clear up your desk, maybe sweep the dust away, so you can be comfy from day one. You might also want to install a new door lock on that door, either inside the office, or outside. Whatever works for you best.
If you are not so fortunate as to have a home office, then find a space you can claim as yours. You will probably need a place where you know nobody will disturb you and your process. It can be a study, your bedroom, the dining room, laundry room, or a little space in your living room. If you can't find peace and quiet for writing at home, then leave your house and go to the local library or coffee shops. As long as you have a place where you know you will get to work without distractions, you'll be fine.
- Take care of yourself
When you are writing, it is easy to forget about yourself and concentrate all your energy and time in your novel. Before you know it, you start to skip meals, showers, sleep, and so on. Remember that this is a very important project, but it is not more important than your health. If you stop taking care of yourself, then you will get sick and won't be able to finish. Get your priorities straight, keep yourself hydrated, keep healthy snacks near you just in case, and shower often. I'm not even kidding on that last one. That's just nasty.
- Finally, remember what NaNoWriMo is all about
NaNoWriMo is about writing a first draft. Period. It is not a program to write your novel in November and submit it to editors on December 1st. Keep in mind that you will write a lot of crap that needs to be rewrote, edited, and revised. Before you start to write query letters to agents, read what you've written with a very critical eye. If you hate it, rewrite it. If you love it too much, edit it and read it again. Don't send your NaNo novel to an agent, or worse, don't self publish it unless you know it is ready. Remember, we don't need more bad, unfinished books in this world.
So, should we do NaNoWriMo? I say, why not? The objective is to write 50,000 words in a month. That is a huge amount of work, and it is a great way to get started in a novel. However, lets remember that anything that we write this month is not a complete novel. It might not even be a first draft, but a sketch of your real manuscripts.
With that being said, let's dive into the NaNoWriMo challenge. Let's cheer each other on through the hell that this month is going to be. Let's compromise to get to the finish line with 50,000+ words, and let's make an even bigger compromise to edit whatever we write this month before send it to agents (Seriously, guys, I can't stress this enough). But overall, let's have fun. From November 1st on, we leave our inner critics elsewhere, forget about our own doubts and limitations, and just write on. Happy writing everyone.