Er, what’s NaNoWriMo?
November every year is what is called “NaNoWriMo” – National Novel Writing Month. Now, at first, that sounds like some ghastly brash Americanism (and sounds as wrong as focussing all your attention on your Mother just on Mother’s Day, or devoting yourself to your loved one mostly on Valentine’s Day and not any other day of the year). And certainly the US is where it all began, in San Francisco in 1999; but if you are hankering to write, don’t dismiss this internet phenomenon out of hand and read on…
In a Nutshell
NaNoWriMo challenges you to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month. There are no official prizes, no lucrative book deal for those who produce the most attractive or inspiring work, no rules on what you cana nd can’t write, no official recognition; it is all about rising to the challenge. And a challenge it is: if you are participating in the true spirit of NaNoWrMo, when you touch pen to paper / fingers to keyboard on the 1st November, there should have been little advance planning or storyboarding, if not quite a ‘cold start’. 50,000 words breaks down that you should write on average 1,667 words a day. That makes it seem less threatening, an achievable challenge.
NaNoWriMo is completely free. It is organised via the Internet, and you can get as little or as much involved with the whole event as you want to. You can simply set yourself the target at the start of the month, and congratulate yourself when your wordcount passes 50,000 on the 30th; you can create a profile and paste your completed work into the official NaNoWriMo validator to prove your completion (a problem for people like me who prefer to write their first draft with pen and paper); browse through the online resources that the site offers, get involved sharing tips, inspiration and work in the discussion boards; and even attend a write-in (they take place all over the world) so you can actually meet other writers who are as nutty as you! There’s even merchandise you can buy which helps fund the whole thing…
Full details are on the official NaNoWriMo website.
Why should I take part… and why shouldn’t I?
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first. Unless you are an incredibly gifted writer who has been hiding your light under a rock for far far too long, it is unlikely that what you have produced by the 30th November will be something that could (or should) be sent to prospective literary agents or for self-publishing. Even after leaving your completed work in the electronic equivalent of a dusty draw for a year, quite possibly you may take it out, re-read it, and realise that the whole thing… doesn’t quite stack up int he cold light of day. The concentration on the volume rather than dwelling on the quality may certainly not help hone your voice and skills as a writer; apart from anything else, you may find you end up with less time to read other books, a key part of becoming a writer yourself. And certainly if you want to be a writer, you shouldn’t just say to yourself: This is the time of year I’ll write, and that’s it.
There are many more reasons why you should take part in NaNoWriMo.
- Maybe you’ve thought about how you always wanted to write something, but you only ever jotted a few odd pages sporadically (or perhaps opened up your word processor and just ummed and ahhed before finding the evening had passed on YouTube and Facebook); the challenge of completing 50,000 words in a month might help get you into the habit of writing.
- The challenge is all about the writing; there’s no time to self-edit as you go along, no time for spending hours getting sidetracked on ‘research’, not even time to falsely convince yourself that you’ve got writer’s block (you haven’t); there is just you and your story.
- Writing begets writing; maybe the work you are engrossed in for NaNoWriMo generates ideas, characters, settings for other stories you can then develop in more seriousness.
- At the very least you get to the 30th November and think: Wow, I did it – 50,000 words in a month! What else can I do? or OK, I didn’t quite get there that time, but I will next year; and I loved reading everyone else’s experiences in the challenge.
- …or maybe, just maybe, the 30th November leaves you something that a few months later you look at afresh, and think: With a rewrite, a change to this character, and more detail around the setting…
Call to action
I have not taken part in NaNoWriMo for five years now, partly as I now have more than enough to work on all year round, but I would say try it at least once if you like creative writing and are looking for that little burst of literary adrenalin. This post is going up late, but there’s still time for you to sign up and get involved. Go on; call up the website now; whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, for the dog to bark that it wants to be let back in, while the adverts are on the telly. And then get creating.
Official NaNoWriMo website: https://nanowrimo.org/
- And from the other perspective…: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/10/attention-nanowrimo-fans-no-one-cares-how-your-fing-novel-going
Page updated 06/11/17