Last November was life-changing for me. My dreams and goals took a whole new turn. My confidence in my own ability to accomplish something huge was strengthened in a big way. I pushed myself physically and mentally further than I had in years – and discovered (remembered?) that there’s something very satisfying in that. I found a very special way to connect with both of my daughters. November became my favorite month of the year.
November = Nanowrimo!
All of that came about when I discovered Nanowrimo: National Novel Writer’s Month.
I had vaguely heard about this idea the year before but I was a new blogger in a swirling sea of terms and language that was unfamiliar to me. Last year I dug a little deeper and found out it works like this: There is a website; Nanowrimo.org, where you sign up to participate. You can plan and conceptualize all you want, but you’re not supposed to start your actual manuscript until November 1. Then, you have from 12:01am on the 1st until midnight on the 30th to write 50,000 words. Everyone who hits 50,000 wins! Prizes are, for the most part, things like free or discounted editing or graphic art help from well-respected professionals.
That’s it. Easy as pie, right?
I agonized. I’d been cooking up a book for just about as long as I had the ability to string a sentence together. I would start to write. I’d finish a chapter. I’d edit it. I’d write chapter 2. I’d go back and edit chapter 1. Then chapter 2 didn’t quite fit right any more so I’d re-write it. By the time I got to chapter 3 I couldn’t remember how chapter 1 went. I’m not sure I ever got past chapter 3.
What if I signed up for this and couldn’t do it? What if I did it and my book was terrible?
My husband, in his wisdom said, “What if? Who cares?”
Good point. If I failed, I failed. This is not the equivalent of failing at walking a tight rope over the Grand Canyon. If, at the end of November I had only written 25,000 words of garbage… well… so what?
But what if I could actually do it?
That urge to go back and edit is the downfall of untold numbers of wannabe novelists. It’s impossible to get to the end because you can’t get the beginning exactly perfect. Nanowrimo is the cure for perfectionism.
In order to keep on-pace you need to finish 1600-1700 words every single day for a month. Lord have mercy on your soul if you, like me, start late or miss a few days in the middle. There is no time to spell check or re-consider whether or not the previous chapter creates a hole in your timeline. It’s a sprint to the finish. Don’t look back. Just run as fast as you can. Keep writing. Did you change tenses in the middle of your story? Don’t worry about it. Just keep running. Did your main character just switch ethnicity? Gender? Acquire a new name? Just keep writing. Go, man, go. Write like the wind!
It was totally and utterly exhausting. It sucked every bit of thinking power from my mind and I was consumed and obsessed with constant thoughts of my story world and what was going to happen next.
It was wonderful!
Last year, after throwing all my fears to the wind and jumping into the already boiling Nanowrimo waters on November 6, I wrote like I’d never written before. If I got stuck I just skipped that scene and went on. I wrote and wrote and wrote and then I wrote a little more and, with HOURS to spare, I hit the 50,000 word mark! About 10,000 words after that I finished my book.
It was a mess. A few friends said they wanted to read it. No way! I wasn’t sure it would even be comprehensible! But it was done. Beginning, middle and end, all strung together in a row.
I DID IT!
Just as good, or maybe even better, is that both of my daughters did it with me! There is a Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Edition that they signed up for. One finished and one didn’t but I was so proud of both of them and awed by their creativity.
It took every bit of the year since then to edit and re-write and edit and correct and re-write again that heap of words but, because the ENTIRE foundation had been laid out, editing was a much smoother project. I could fix the issues in chapter 1, knowing what was going to happen in chapter 8. Just last week I put the manuscript in the hands of a major literary agent for the first time. That’s still a long way from seeing it on the shelf at Barnes and Nobel but… you know what? I think it may actually get there some day!
And now we are just one week away from the beginning of November again!
Only 7 more days until Nanowrimo!
No late start for me, this year. I’m standing at the gate with my outline in hand. Book 2 is leaking out of my pores. My characters need to live the next part of their story!
If you have a story itching to be told, I can’t encourage you enough to go sign up. Nanowrimo isn’t an editing system or a writing tool – it’s more like…
Picture a major marathon. There are people lining the streets cheering the runners on, providing support and encouragement to get them over those tough hills. There are little stations for the runners to get a drink of water. There’s a festive finish-line to strive toward. And there are hundreds of other runners on the track with you as you run.
The difference between trying to run 26 miles entirely on your own and trying to do it with the encouragement and accountability of that official marathon structure is the difference between writing on your own or writing as part of Nano. Something about knowing that others are striving alongside you and having a goal to reach for just makes the whole thing easier and more fun.
Just do it!
If you want to be writing buddies, look me up on the Nano site and I’ll cheer for you all month long.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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