November Madness AKA NaNoWriMo
The rules of NaNoWriMo are simple: Challenge yourself to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days, or more specifically; in November. You’re in good company, because thousands of people around the world are doing it to. Some make it, others don’t.
There is this thing about writing (as with any creative endeavour) that so many factors have to fall into place. You have to have the ideas, the technical skills, the talent, the commitment, and the time for everything to come together and really work. Granted, you can write without much technical skill, and you don’t need the talent that badly if you are just writing as a hobby. But a certain amount of each is nice to have, I’m sure. – However, that is not what this post is about. It’s about finding the time. It’s about having the commitment.
I heard of NaNoWriMo several years ago. I think it was in 2003. I didn’t participate for many years because: a) Something always came up in November (such as planning a convention or handing in the thesis for my master’s degree). b) I didn’t think I would be able to do it, and besides why not take your time instead of rushing through writing a novel? And c) I partly forgot about it.
Let’s return to point b) for a moment. Of course you can’t write a masterpiece of 50,000 words (or more) in 30 days. Or most likely you can’t. But if you want to write and find it hard to get started or to justify to yourself (and/or your friends) that you need time for writing on a regular basis, NaNoWriMo is a brilliant opportunity.
After those 30 days, you may find yourself with a complete first draft of a novel that you can then edit as much as you like. Or you can leave it in a drawer (or, the these days more common means of storage, the hard drive). But you can congratulate yourself on having done it, because it is quite an accomplishment.
And if you don’t make the 50,000 mark? Well, perhaps you managed 20,000 or 10,000 words, and then, instead of thinking about not reaching the goal, why not see it as 10 of 20,000 words that you may not have ever written otherwise? You have more words than you started out with.
Last year I finally did get around to participate. I spent a lot of time planning ahead, writing notes and making timelines. I set out to write a historical story of development with supernatural elements spanning around 150 years. I managed the 50,000 words, but the story I wanted to tell was far from done. It turned out to be a trilogy. I’ve been working on the second and the third part during the past year, but everything still needs a lot of work.
This year, my approach is a little different. I had a protagonist and a supporting cast, I had a setting, and I had an overall idea. But I started November with very few notes, and I really discover the story as I go along. It’s nicely refreshing this way, but I end up on some odd tangents. That, however, is not such a bad thing with this story. My narrator has quite a vivid imagination, so it fits the mood of the whole thing very well. My main concern right now is that I’m almost 30,000 words in, and it feels as if I have just set the scene, put the actors in places and shouted, “Action!” It is now that things really begin to happen.
– But it’s NaNoWriMo. The joy of that is that I can wrap up the story quickly and write a better ending later if I don’t have the time by the end of November. And I can take out some of the scenes in the first bit of the story where I was (I admit) mostly getting to know my protagonist.
At this point I feel that I am going to reach the 50,000 words. The story needs at least 20,000 more, but I may have to fill them in later. I am going to need to edit a lot, and I am going to wonder just what I was thinking at certain points of the story, but it is moving, and for now that is what matters.
If you like writing and you haven’t tried it, I recommend giving yourself a day with lots of time to write. Once you get going, and the story is just washing over you, treating you to surprises and new insights, it is wonderful. Absolutely terrific.
I’ll go write that story now.