I had never heard of this thing – NaNoWriMo. What is it, you ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. When is it, you ask? You just missed it. It happens every year during the month of November. Right along with No Shave November. That was popular last year at the high school where I work. I didn’t hear much about it this year. (Shrug) Oh, well. Back to the topic!
The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Authors and writers who want to be authors sign up – it’s free – and you get all kinds of cool opportunities to network with others participating in NaNoWriMo, encouraging messages, pep talks, forums and writing buddies, virtual write-ins, speed writing, word sprints, tools that help you plan or organize your ideas, or even name your characters. You can earn badges for various things and milestones. It’s kind of like a computer game for writing nerds.
When I decided to sign up, my best writing month had been last June when I wrote a little over 33,000 words. As a teacher, there is a huge difference between writing in June, when I’m on summer break, and writing in November, when I’m working. I didn’t really think I could achieve the 50,000 word goal, but I signed up anyway. I figured a little extra incentive to write everyday wouldn’t hurt, and if I didn’t make the ultimate goal, I would still make progress on my second novel. A win-win.
What I got from my experience with NaNoWriMo was so much more than I ever anticipated. I didn’t take advantage of hardly any of the forums or extra help offered. I mainly used the daily word count update and the stats that keep track of your average daily work count, how many words you need per day to make your goal, and what day you’ll make your goal if you continue at your current pace.
I found that I was super motivated to write every single day. Then, I found the more I wrote, the easier it was to write more. The more into the story I got, the more story I could write. The more I understood about the characters and the basic plot including themes and plot points, the easier it was to imagine what needed to happen next. I also practiced doing something I’ve not been very good at in the past – writing to get the story down without going back and editing to fix it before moving on. In other words, I learned to write fast, focus on moving the story along, and get to the end, instead of constantly trying to work out the best metaphor or verb for each passage.
I’d read about this concept of writing as fast as possible, but never been able to get the hang of it. NaNoWriMo helped me move toward mastery of this method of writing. I think I like it. I didn’t finish the novel, but I moved out of the dreaded middle where I had definitely been floundering for quite a while. I have a new sense of where the story is and where it needs to go, and a better feel for the various characters. I know the rewrite will be huge on this one, because I’ve changed the trajectory of the novel. Some of the themes have undergone major overhauls. But that’s okay. I’m actually looking forward to it.
So, if you’re a writer, aspiring or otherwise, I urge you to check out NaNoWriMo.org. It’s an organization that, along with the month of writing, has many programs that encourage writers of all ages. In an age of text messaging and five minute attention spans, anything that applauds reading and writing gets my vote for a beneficial, worthwhile and necessary entity.
So NaNoWriMo, thanks for a fabulous month! I appreciate the encouragement and learning opportunity you provided and will look forward to next year.