Way back in 1999, 21 people tried to write 50,000 words in one month. Only 6 of them succeeded but the idea spread and now, 18 years later, there are over 380,000 people trying to hit the word count every November.
It’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)!
The last time I ‘won’ NaNoWriMo, I was 16 and had just started my HSC year, so it wasn’t exactly a wise decision. But I did it! Two years later, I tried to do it again and got less than 1,000 words into the challenge. It turns out November is an absolutely terrible time for students in Australia to try and write a novel – uni exams and final assignments are ALL in November.
After that, I kind of forgot about it. Every year, it would roll around to November and I would think ‘Huh, I wonder if I should do NaNo this year’, but it would already be Nov. 1, and I had no outline, no characters and no ideas so I just … didn’t.
This year I’m going BACK. I have four days off work a week, my life has significantly calmed down from the last two/three years and if I’m honest with myself, I need a distraction to keep me from shopping or wasting my days doing absolutely nothing.
What will I do differently?
The last time I succeeded, I wasn’t an ‘outline person’. I never structured anything formally (even essays!), I preferred to just write and see where it would take me. If anyone read that story I wrote in 2010, they would know that that method did not work for me.
A lot has changed since then and now I write professionally – granted, it’s not fiction but I’ve learnt a lot about structuring (I structure everything now) and I have spent most of October so far coming up with ideas and rough structures. It’s important to be open to where your plot will take you so I don’t want to box myself in but I won’t be starting without a fair idea of where I will end up at 50,000 words.
Last time, I also wrote my story by hand. I still write every day by hand and all my structures for essays, articles and blog posts are written by hand but I will not be writing any prose (unless I am without a device) by hand. It was useful for me last time – entering into the final year of school I taped batteries to my pen and took every opportunity to strengthen my writing hand and quicken my writing pace. Writing 50,000 words manually certainly helped me to build that up but I am not in quite so much need of strength and pace anymore, so I’ll stick to my laptop.
What do I love the most about NaNoWriMo?
Let’s be real, the month can be full of misery. The emotions that most writers experience over a stretch of a year or several years are squished into one dramatic month where the goal you’ve set yourself starts to feel impossibly far away.
There are a lot of people (I’ve just discovered through a quick Google search) who hate NaNoWriMo and everyone who participates. They think it’s a load of crap that all these ‘fakers’ just gear up once a year to write a novel when other people spend every day of every year crafting their perfect story.
Let’s ignore the fact that several respected, published authors take part in NaNoWriMo every year – I still think that the whole month is a great idea. It’s not about trying to craft the perfect story. It’s not about editing and refining or even writing well (although these are all great if you can achieve them within the month or in the months following) it’s just about DOING IT.
It doesn’t matter whether you write 50,001 words or 75,000 words in the month – you just have to hit the goal. It’s about making time to write. Talking about writing is not actually writing, remember.
At the end of the month, you have at least 50,000 words that you didn’t have before and there are thousands of people around the world trying to hit their goal too. Writing can be a lonely and sometimes, fruitless thing but NaNoWriMo makes it just that little bit less lonely and a little more fruitful.
Please, join me and thousands of others on November 1st as we set off for a month of definite writing and probable insanity. I am not one to share my writing (she says on a public blog), but I am one who loves to chat about how we’re feeling as we go and throw around ideas.
You can be my writing buddy on NaNoWriMo.org, follow my Instagram for daily updates on my word counts for the day (via my story) or, if you’re a fan of less frequent updates, I’ll let you know how I’m going on my Facebook page at the beginning, middle and end of the month (no more, no less, I promise). Just follow the links in the images!
See you in November!