If we were having coffee today I’d be mumbling something about NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month. Yes, that’s a thing. I would be mumbling because the only way I’ve found to successfully participate is by getting up earlier than I usually do. That will be alleviated somewhat by today’s Daylight Savings time transition.
NaNoWriMo is not just another celebratory month. The celebration is by doing. Participants actually try to write an entire novel in that month. It’s a commitment, and it is a challenge to apply yourself to that singular goal. No, you don’t have to be published in a month; far from it. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a fifty-thousand-word rough draft within that thirty-day time frame.
I can see you blinking your eyes, but seriously, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here’s what you need in order to do it: An Idea, time to apply yourself to that idea, and perseverance. Oh, and there is one other rule of thumb: never look back. If you are going to do NaNoWriMo, you should just keep writing forward no matter what. As founder Chris Baty said in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” you need to send your internal editor on vacation for the month. I know, it seems counter-intuitive, but seriously, you’ll never hit fifty-thousand-words by self-editing at this point.
In practical purposes, to achieve the goal you need to write at least 1667 words a day. That’s all. Single-spaced, that is probably about two to three pages. For the idea? We all have ideas. You see on TV “writers” who painstakingly graph out their entire novel in great detail. That’s fine and good for some writers. You can do all of that ahead of time, that is if you want. For me, I take my idea and loosely outline enough events to fill out something that will take about that 1667 words a day, one event per day. For me, that sometimes has a notation like “something else happens” or “a new character shows up.” Well, you do need to know one or two major characters too.
Here’s the deal. What I’ve found out is that by giving yourself this self-imposed deadline, something does indeed happen. Creativity. As you push, push, push, cranking out words to reach your daily goal you are bombarded by new ideas. The story begins to take on a life of its own. Yes, sometimes you end up straying from your outline, but that’s a good thing. It was just a guide. And you can usually get back to it.
Anyway, that’s my November and now I’m stuck with it. I’ve published two novels from NaNoWriMo projects. I have several other rough drafts I’ll resume work on one day. In this context, the base novel is the easy part. It is editing and revision that take the most time but you know what? You can’t edit a blank page. The main events are there, and the story arc is complete. I call that stage crafting the novel.
Don’t even get me started on marketing the danged things. That’s the real challenge and it is the hardest stage of all. The rough draft is almost a vacation.
It’s only November 3. Kick yourself up to 2000 words a day and you can catch up in no time. That 1667 word goal is just the minimum. Check it all out at http://www.nanowrimo.org
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Two of his past NaNoWriMo projects are on display at http://thefensk.com … you can further motivate him by buying/reading them.
There is also an Amazon giveaway running for the companion cookbook at: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/71bf07b34bec7fd9