Nanowrimo 2010: You Can Do It!

It’s that time again! Are you going to go for it this year? Come on – you know you want to!

Have you got what it takes to write a novel in a month? Seriously! A whole novel in a month?!

For those of you who have never heard of Nanowrimo, let me explain:

The word Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November. I’ve never been much for contests, but if you love writing, you don’t want to miss it. It’s the coolest writing contest I have ever seen.

Here’s how it works: starting November 1, you begin writing a novel – from scratch. You can have outlines, research, and sources if you want them (many don’t even start with those), but otherwise you’re starting from nothing. Then, for thirty days, you write like mad. Like MAD! The object of the contest is to reach 50.000 words before midnight Nov 30. If you make it, you win! Simple as that. You write 50,000 words between Nov 1 and Nov 30, you win. You don’t have to finish your novel, you don’t have to even “start” your novel, and you certainly don’t have to redraft your novel. Just write, and write like crazy. If you can start and finish your story, great, but it’s not required in order to win.

So, if there’s no judge and no competition with other writers, how can you call it a contest? Well, for starters, you are certainly competing: you’re competing against all your inhibitions (and believe me, they fight hard!), and all your insecurities, and all the things in your life that try to tear you away from writing. And second, you are still held accountable to other Nano writers. Your story is never posted anywhere, but every day (or week, or whatever you want), you copy the full text of your novel into a little box on the Nanowrimo site, which calculates your word count and tracks your word count progress. It doesn’t keep the actual words. In fact there’s no way to save your work on the site. So obviously there is a lot of self-accountability for your work. The system would have no idea if you had the same sentence pasted over and over. But this is not about the site. It’s about you. Can you do it? Will you do it?

If you’ve never done Nanowrimo, you’re probably thinking, “What? Abandon my family, friends, and responsibilities for a whole month just to write a novel?”

That was one of my concerns last year when I decided to do it. But actually, it was all the unimportant things that suffered. I only checked my email, blogs, and Facebook a couple times a week (and even those couple times were used as diversions when I’d start dozing off while writing), and I always did worked on it after the kids went to bed. In fact, it was usually after my wife went to bed. I probably got an hour less sleep every night, but it was only for a month, and the feeling of having pulled it off at the end of thirty days was absolutely exhilarating!

Another thing to keep in mind if you do it – don’t worry about the quality of the writing. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE QUALITY!!! You have all of December, January, February, etc to worry about that – if you even think it’s salvageable. Just write and write and write. November is strictly about quantity.

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to write that story that’s been dancing around in your head – this is it. If the thought of writing 50,000 words in a month scares the living daylights out of you, then I encourage you to just try it. I fell in love with it quickly – so much so that at the deadline, I was at 63,000 words, and a week later, I completed my 70,000 word rough draft. I can tell you, if you’ve gotten used to writing somewhere between 1,500 words and 3,000 words a day, 7,000 words in a week is nothing.

So are you going to do it? Are you going to live off a keyboard and stay-awake snacks for a month in order to fulfill a dream you’ve always had? Come on, you know you want to!

Nano: Writing a Full-size Novel in a Month

Nanowinningcertificate

On November 1, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.

Still…

Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Anyone who’s been following the Synergetic Novel knows I’ve at least dabbled in the juvenile fiction genre.

Then my fingers started to itch.

“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”

But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.

Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.

So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, and every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.

No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes a bit of dialogue! On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.

Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.

It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.

As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I came up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.

But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.

I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.

With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.

Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.

What on earth was I thinking?!

But I was going to do it.

So how was it?

Photo 54

It was A BLAST!!!

I truly loved it. I had no idea that writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written. So now I have the roughdraft for The Santa Code, and in a couple weeks (it’s always good to put it down and give it some time before redrafting) I’ll begin the second draft. If I do decide to publish it, I’ll let you all know when it’s ready. I hope to have it ready and published by October, since it’s sort of about a Christmas conspiracy, so the holidays would be a good release time.

Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but now I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.

If you love writing, you’d love doing a challenge like this. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Just start writing. If writing isn’t an interest of yours, you probably wouldn’t like it, since it requires a few hours a day writing. But if you enjoy writing, do it! You’ll love it!

NaNoWriMo is an annual thing, so you can bet I’ll be at it again in a year. Yay Nano!

nanowinner2009