Tuesday marks November 1st. While most of you are going to be seeing it as either the day after sugar shock, or the beginning of the end of the political mess, or the countdown to celebrate Guy Fawks Day … November 1st is going to be the start of something that seems right now as doom filled as it is exciting to me. I take another shot at NaNoWriMo.
November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It is a program started in 1999 to help develop and encourage the writers, whether amateur, professional, or no-talent-hack, to achieve the goal of writing a novel. Since it’s start, it has grown into a non-profit organization to help students develop writing skills and encourage creativity in the written arts. In 2015 NaNoWriMo had nearly 450,000 participants and raised millions in educational grants. But that is the fluffy, feel good side of it … you are probably asking still what is it.
NaNoWriMo is pretty simple. Over the month of November, a participant has to write 50,000 words towards a novel, screenplay, collection, non-fiction work, or whatever. What you write is up to you. How you write is up to you. When you write is up to you. As long as you write 50,000 words from 12:01 AM November 1st to Midnight November 30th.
I try to make it sound simple … it is not! Breaking it down, you would need to average 1667 words a day. As a point of reference, this blog is 995 words … so think this, plus 674 more, but not just today, but every day, over and over again. Now, those words don’t have to pretty, nor be any good, or for that matter spelled correctly. The purpose is to put the symbolic pen to paper and get the words down. It’s well known that the number one means to prevent a writer from finishing a story is that they get caught in things that limit the creative activity. Editing is one of those things that can get someone caught up. So it is encouraged to literally vomit up your words and get them down … because you will have the rest of your life to edit your novel, and you can’t edit something you haven’t written.
Officially, this will be my 3rd attempt at NaNo. The first time I heard of it was four years ago, and sadly not until November 10th – way too late to really give it ago. In 2014, I had a good start but got rocked by some work issues that sucked me in too deep to stay creative, so ended with 23,000 words. 2015 was way more successful, even if I was extremely challenged. During that month, I was away from home nearly 20 days, bounced between four time zones, and even had gastric bypass surgery. With three days left, I still had nearly 10,000 words to go, but a crazy last push got me to 50,454 and made me a ‘Winner’.
Now there are some misnomers on what you get if you write 50,000 words. They call you a “Winner”. I didn’t win anything. I mean, they give you some discounts for ‘winning’ but you only really get the satisfaction that you wrote 50,000 words. It’s just a term folks … cause you definitely aren’t a “Finisher”. If I ever do finish the 2015 story, it will likely be in the 80k to 90k range. But I have to edit the hell out of it to remove the suck.
I am dreading this year, because my confidence is lower. Yes, I had more challenges last year, but I do expect some major challenges (to be named later) this year to finishing. Also, I am just less confident in my story. Last year, I ferreted out most of the characters and stories through some side projects and online story-writing forums. This one is basically a pre-qual (or Book 1) to last year, but it doesn’t mean it is made easier by this. This one I walk in with a blank slate. I have researched the hell out of key points, know what I want for characters, outlined a plot, but I feel like this is a series of pieces and bits that won’t have the breadth and depth my 2015 story did. Heck, I don’t even really have a good plot line. There’s other reasons there too. Like most writers, I write based on personnel issues that need resolution, and the topics I chose are weighty, difficult, and I don’t even know how the heck I am going to resolve them let alone my protagonists. In a way, though, that was true last year … and writing became part of the therapy I needed to advance from some of what I faced. In the end, the dread that I have is wondering if this story even has 50,000 words in it – at least in the form that I am ready to draft. Last year, I had whole sections I tried out before starting. This year, not a word has been written.
Yet I am still going to try. And this is as much a call to arms to all of those looking to try as well. The irony of NaNo is that it is a process where we all isolate ourselves in our writing, but are bolstered by the support and attention of our fellow writers. I go to ‘write-ins’ locally, where at some random library 30 people sit around laptops with ear plugs in and bang out words in silence … until someone reaches a word goal where they ring a little bell, everyone claps, then goes back to their desperate attempts to crank out a few more bits of pretty things.
So if you are out to give it a shot yourself – give me a shout. Find me on the website (look for ‘thatmitch’ as a tag). We’ll work on ways on staying up with each other, find ways to help through the blocks and struggles. Then come November 1st, see if we can win this thing.