Three years ago in 2007 I heard about a unique challenge - National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short in which you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Get out of here, I said. Who can write a book in 30 days. James Patterson maybe, but me? I checked it out and this is what I found:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
I had dabbled periodically through life with writing, never getting much farther than a thought, a daydream, a first chapter. The idea intrigued me so I came up with an idea and went for it. And I did it. I wrote my first novel. A lousy first novel that needed a lot of work, but I discovered a new love. Since then I've written two more first drafts that are waiting to be edited into hopefully something worthy. And I have learned much about the craft of writing and am still learning.
Basically you are writing a first draft - quickly - without letting your internal editor shut you down with worries about grammar usage, or questions about 'does that make sense, is that right?' or your brain shouting at you - NO you NEED to MAKE that SOUND better RIGHT NOW. I've discovered there are two types of writers. Pantsters and outliners. Pantsters fly by the seat of their pants - they have an idea and just start writing. Whereas outliners - outline what the story is going to be about, research it a bit and then start writing.
I'm sort of a pantster outliner. I have a general outline and just go from there. And then as you write, you let the characters take over and see where they take you. I love the aha wow moments as I write, letting the thoughts flow from my head to the pen and onto paper. Yes, I write longhand because discovered my thoughts just flow so much more smoothly versus typing it. I'm less prone to changing or correcting things as I write. Because as I type, like right now, I'm seeing the words on the page, thinking it out and typing, editing, correcting my spelling, thinking about not only what I'm going to say but how it looks.
Did you know Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephant's wrote the first draft of the story during nanowrimo? Or Lani Diane Rich of Wish You Were Here who stumbled upon Nano in 2003 and wrote her very first story. There are many published authors who use Nano each year to jump start their first drafts. And there are many folks out there who do it just for the challenge.
It started out as a challenge for me, but in the back of my mind somewhere is the thought - it would be neat to see my name on the cover of a my book sitting on the shelves in a bookstore. I'm taking up the challenge once again, for another year come November. Meanwhile I'm learning every thing I can about editing because maybe, one day......
So I'm clearing the decks for November and getting ready to write. How about you? 50,000 words in 30 days = 1667 words a day. Come on - you know you wanna do it?
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