October 31st is often hailed as the scariest day of the year, but that may be because you don’t know about November 1st.
To writers across the country–and beyond–November 1st ushers in one of the most grueling, challenging, and rewarding writing exercises ever invented: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Like its name implies, the event takes place for all thirty days, and the terror only grows with each passing day.
Why is that? What is NaNoWriMo?
Well, a small group of people began it in 1999: write a novel that’s 50,000 words long and submit it by 11:59 PM on November 30th. Sounds simple, right? Considering that NaNoWriMo had over 200,000 participants in 2010, many people seem to think so.
But it’s much more challenging than you think.
I once attempted NaNoWriMo back in 2012 when I was still in college; I don’t even think I submitted 5,000 words.
Do you necessarily have to write a novel for NaNoWriMo? My answer is no. They don’t even have to be works of fiction. The main goal of NaNoWriMo is to teach you good writing habits, namely to write every day no matter what. This year, I plan on using the event to write articles for CYC, gratuitous fanfiction for my friends and me to enjoy, and…yes, an original fiction novel. You, too, can do this.
If you love writing, then I encourage you to join in as soon as possible, with whatever your writing talents are.
Ultimately, NaNoWriMo is a word count game, one that you must make time for if you have any hope of succeeding. The site recommends logging 1,667 words per day in order to reach your word count goal; of course, you’re allowed to be as flexible as you need to be. Sometimes, life happens, preventing you from writing when you planned. Understandable. Most people have more time to write on the weekends, and can make up any losses of word count then.
Other times, you will have to fight yourself–fight your writer’s block, your lack of motivation, your fatigue, your excuses–to get the words out of your head and onto the page.
Above all, you will have to fight your inner editor. This is one of the few times I will ever quote Ernest Hemingway seriously:
“Write drunk, edit sober.”
Now, I don’t mean for you to literally get drunk and write your novel (but, hey, if that’s your method of choice, I salute you).
What I mean is, write without apology, without shame, without fear. Most importantly, write without your internal editor. Turn that bad boy off; it will only hinder you from getting your novel done.
Remember: you don’t need your novel to be good yet; first drafts rarely are. You just need it to be in existence. You will never be able to achieve that in 30 days without some serious, mindless writing.
Still not convinced that NaNoWriMo is the writing event for you? Perhaps you should take into account the many novels that have gone on to be published works, novels that may never have been possible without the push NaNoWriMo gave to their writers. Notable works include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (a personal favorite), and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
The best part about NaNoWriMo? You are not alone. You can connect with fellow writers interested in your same genres and sub-fields, gain encouragement and writing tips from published authors, and participate at scheduled meet-and-greets in your region. All of it, including signing up for NaNoWriMo, is free.
So what are you waiting for? An invitation? This is it. This is the sign you’ve been waiting for to get your words out there, to believe that they matter.
Even if you can’t hit the word count, having at least one word written is always better than having none at all, so don’t let November scare you. Make it instead the push you needed; make it your ultimate victory.
Well, why are you still here? Those 50K words aren’t gonna write themselves! Go, fight, win!