Can’t You NaNoWriMo Like I Do?

 This week’s Blogenning topic: National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo involves people from all over the world attempting to write a 50k word novel during the month of November. Specifically midnight 11/1 to 11:59pm 11/30 (a lot of sticklers). They say it isn’t as scary as it sounds, but that’s roughly 200 pages. That’s 1,667 words a day. Sure, it’s easy at first, but that number gets progressively more difficult to reach (to put it into context, one of my longest posts here was only 1,123).

The organizers do what they can to help participants. Letters of encouragement from famous authors, meet-ups arranged by local volunteers, web badges (though this year’s are kind of weak), comics, and forum threads meant to help a struggling author push through. And however much official pep they bring, there’s so soooo much more fan-made. LiveJournal groups, goal and idea calendars, badges and art – it’s really amazing.

There’s really only one goal for NaNoWriMo participants: to reach 50,000 words and finish. Some write more (there are people that aim for 100 and even 200k), but in the end it’s all about getting words on the page. Quantity over quality. That’s how you win. Sure, some people have managed to get their novels published, but really it’s about getting the practice in.

I first attempted NaNoWriMo back in 2008. At around 28,000 words, it was also my most successful year. 2009 was the year I got some friends involved, but only made it to about 16,000 words myself. Last year, barely 5,000. In the end there are 3 major impediments: time management, writer’s block, and plot doctoring.

I am not a fast writer. This post, by the end of it, is 650 words, and it’s taken me about 3 hours to write (admittedly, there have been a few distractions – laundry, cats, TV, etc, but I can’t write in silence). And NaNoWriMo simply takes over your life – every spare minute. Even when I do manage to write, I often run into writer’s block, which either forces me to stop or to write crap that is honestly just that. Which leads to my third problem. I go back. Either I’ve written something that was simply crap, or I’ve reached a part in the story and think “You know, this needs another character” and then go back and insert them. And then retrofit the remainder. It’s honestly my biggest flaw.

There are a few things I’m trying this year to help. First, I’ve actually started writing early. Not the story I’ll be writing for NaNoWriMo (that’d be cheating,  AHEM), but simple creative writing. I’ll probably be posting some of it here in the next week. It’s short, and goes nowhere, but it helps get the juices flowing. As November draws closer I might start fleshing out a bit of a plot, but it’s really characters and dialogue that give me trouble. How to figure those out beforehand – no clue. As for plot doctoring, I just can’t look back. If I think of a plot change, just make a note and move on as if I’d written it. Thankfully I’ve got a few friends participating this year and will probably take every opportunity to use them as a crutch.

All I can do is write. Keep writing. If I’m not sleeping, in the shower, or at work, then write (my new smartphone will make this a little easier). Honestly, I doubt I’ll reach 50k words. But for me that isn’t the point – the point is writing every day, not giving up after the first or second week. If not 1,667 words, then as many as I can. And I’ll post occasional status updates here or, more frequently, on twitter.

Oh, I can also try and get you to join. Come on, it’s fun! Just review the rules, create an account on the site, and take a creative, empowering stroll with the rest of us shut-in, hair-pulling, sleep-deprived Wrimos.

19 days and counting!

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5 responses to “Can’t You NaNoWriMo Like I Do?

  1. As to how to work on characters, try one of these: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/files/ywp/nano_ywp_08_chars_ms_0.pdf

    A friend of mine (Anna, one of the Boston MLs) uses them all the time for her writing. I’ve asked her for the one she usually uses, but this one looks pretty good.

    As for writing crap: I’d never win NaNo if I was at all concerned with that. It’s much easier to go back and fix a broken scene to fill a blank page. This is where I disagree with the blanket nature of the cult of done. There is always a goddamn editing stage. People who want to get something done don’t need one, but people who want to get something done WELL often do. However, you really can use the Cult of Done to get through NaNo (your first draft), including the no editing bit.

    Just some thoughts. I’ll be cheering you on.

    Official write-ins are Weds nights this year, which I seem to recall as being one of your “weekend” days, so hopefully I’ll see you at some of those!

    • Thanks for the link. The basics of it aren’t a problem. Takes me a few seconds. It’s that step 4. Seeing the situation from that character’s shoes and figuring how they’d react realistically. That shit is tough.

  2. Pingback: In Preparation for NaNoWrimo: Part 1 | A Chain of Letters

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