Saturday, October 01, 2005

NaNoWriMo: The Sequel

Last year I discovered NaNoWriMo when I purchased the book No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty in that never-ending quest for the magic writing bullet. As would be expected, I didn't find any secret low work solutions to completing the Great American Novel. But I did find something that was pretty inspirational.

For those of you who've never heard of NaNoWriMo (which is short for National Novel Writing Month), I'll give you the skinny. The theory of this group is that most writers never actually complete their novels, and the first step of becoming a published author is finishing. No matter how much crap you've managed to pile on the paper, as long as you finish, you have something to work with. Sure, you may have to rewrite the entire thing, but at least you've got the bones.

So with the idea that finishing as The Holy Grail of writers, the month of November is the official month when writers all over the globe sit down at their laptops/PCs/alphasmarts/typewriters/notebooks and pound out a complete novel. From Nov. 1st through Nov. 30, whatever it takes, writers are expected to write. By the end of the month, in theory you will emerge with a 50,000 word opus that you can then hack all to pieces or throw in the garbage.

In order to keep you on target and honest, you can register on the NaNoWriMo website where you are encouraged to post your daily word account. There are forums and local support groups. The whole thing is one giant writing party, and "winners" are those who come out the other side with their 50,000 words.

Last year I not only signed up, I challenged a good writer friend to to participate with me. I'm sure you can guess what happened. She finished. I...well, let's just say that I did write 50,000 words. Unfortunately, they were divided between three different ideas.

Thing is, 50,000 words is really not a whole lot. It's actually more of a novella than a complete novel. I have a hard enough time forcing an entire story into a small enough word count to qualify for category fiction. So if I want to come into December with a complete novel, I have to double my word count goal and write 100,000 words in a month. Not quite as doable.

Also, of all the months in the year, November is probably second only to December in terms of not such a great time to devote to writing. With Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season, several days are lost to family and other obligations. I'd do much better in, say, March when it's too cold still to be outside but not much is going on otherwise. February would be good, too, except for that short month thing.

Even so, I plan to participate again this year. And true to the group's motto, my mantra will be Finish Finish Finish. I have an idea firmly in mind, and I plan to spend October doing all the background work so I can hit the ground writing without my normal procrastination distractions of research and character development. The rules of NaNoWriMo call for the novel to be brand, spankin' new on Nov. 1, meaning you can't cheat and start on something that's already begun. I don't think establishing a plot or an outline counts, though, so I'm going to give myself that little bit of head start.

All of you writers out there who have a hard time finishing, you might want to give this a try. If nothing else, there's something reassuring about seeing how many people out there are struggling writers. Or...maybe that's not so reassuring.

1 comment:

Caro said...

I'm NaNoing again this year, which will be my fourth year in a row. Even if I don't finish (I've bombed two out of three times), I've always walked away having learned something. If nothing else, having that 50,000 word goal hanging over my head helps keep the writing from getting completely shoved aside when the holiday madness stops.