So, here we are, late in October, and all around the world, closet-writers and people who dream of writing are daring to commit to NaNoWriMo – the annual speed writing fest known formally as National Novel Writing Month.
For those of you who have not heard of NaNoWriMo, here is the official scoop from the folks in charge:
“National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”
If you are joining the
foolishness fun for the first time this year, you are probably in one of two camps. Either you have an idea that has been percolating for ages and you are feeling driven to actually sit down and finally write the darn thing or you have always dreamed of writing a novel but don’t actually know what you want to write about.
In either case, you are probably wondering how to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Preparation has three parts: mind set, schedule, and story. This post will focus on mind set. Later posts will look at schedule and story.
Why Are You Doing This To Yourself?
Through the month of November, on the days when you fall behind on your word count (and don’t kid yourself, you will have days when you fall behind) or you can’t keep your eyes open at work because you wrote too late into the night, you will ask yourself this simple question:
Why am I doing this?
Why don’t I just stop now. This is crazy.
Now the folks at NaNoWriMo headquarters will be sending out cheerleading pep talks during the month, so that will help with the second part – if you actually read them. But, it won’t matter much if you haven’t really answered the big question: why did you decide to do this?
And, if you have a good reason for deciding to do it, then you will have ammunition to use against the part of you that rebels when the going gets tough. (And, it wouldn’t be NaNoWriMo if the going didn’t get tough at least once in November.)
The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I had two very simple reasons.
1. I needed a big creative project to remember that I was a human being not just the exhausted mom if 6-month-old triplets, but I couldn’t get out of the house, so I couldn’t find a play to work on.
2. My brother had just run his first marathon and I wanted to do something that impressed him as much as his running a marathon impressed me.
If I had only wanted a big creative project, winning NaNoWriMo would not have been as important to me as trying. Wanting to impress my brother, on the other hand, was a spur when nothing else was motivating me to write.
Think of all the reasons that you want to do NaNoWriMo. Now focus on the ones that you cannot accomplish without winning NaNoWriMo. Write those down and put them in places you will see them in November.
For someone who doesn’t write regularly, 1667 words a day is a lot and you will need some pretty serious motivation to keep going.
What Exactly are You Trying to Do?
Think about it.
Seriously. What exactly are you trying to do?
1. Do you want to write a publishable novel?
2. Do you want to prove you can meet a challenge?
3. Do want to learn to write faster?
4. Or are you trying to avoid losing a bet you made when you a little worse for the tequila?
Knowing what your goal is will help you figure out how to think about what you produce during NaNoWriMo.
If your goal is a publishable literary novel for adults, writing 50,000 words in November will be a start. If you are working on a fantasy for 9-12 year olds, 50,000 words could be a first draft or detailed world-building.
If you want to prove you can meet a challenge, it will be important for you to follow the rules and avoid using the tricks that feel like cheating.
If you want to learn to write faster, you will probably be working on writing without editing and you will need to accept that your prose will be less polished if you are to become more prolific – at least in your first draft.
If you are trying not to lose a bet, you had better know which tricks to increase your word count might be allowed and which will cause you to forfeit the bet.
Take the time now to articulate your goal – what is it you are trying to accomplish. That way you will be able to assess your progress based on what actually matters to you, not just the arbitrary 50,000 word goal.
Share your reason for committing to NaNoWriMo and what you are trying to accomplish in the comments. You’ll feel stronger about what you are doing and I’ll know what challenges you are facing as I keep writing about how to succeed as NaNoWriMo throughout the month.
My writing goal is to write to discover a plot involving characters that came to me during a exercise I wrote in January that have been haunting my thoughts ever since. My pacing goal is to build habits that support my productivity to the level that allow me to maintain producing fiction at a rate of 1,000 words a day after NaNo is over.