Creative writing can be a club with its own rules and jargon, so I felt for the writer who when asked if she had heard of NaNoWriMo replied that she was familiar with his work but never read any of his poems.
The magical power of deadlines
NaNoWriMo, or to give it its full name, National Novel Writing Month, is a collective madness that descends on writers when the nights draw in. It harnesses the magical power of deadlines to tell stories. The goal is to write 1,667 words a day in order to complete 50,000 words by the end of November. The words need to be original – you can use notes but not any pre-written material – and in any genre or language. After 30 days you will have a complete novel or the first 50,000 words of a work of fiction.
“If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.”
NaNoWriMo was started in July 1999 by Chris Baty with 21 participants. It found its home in November “to take advantage of the miserable weather”. Within a few years it had grown thanks to media attention and a number of published novels including the best selling The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen which were both started in NaNoWriMo. This year there is nearly 300,000 writers taking part and I am proud to count myself in that number.
Write to win
The driving message behind NaNoWrimo is that quantity is more important than quality. It is not about turning out a beautifully written novel with an intricate plot and fully realised characters. It is about completing a first draft under pressure. As it says on the website “The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes your sense of self.” That sense of satisfaction is the reward for taking part, that and the novel you have written. At the end of the month you can submit your novel to have the word count verified and receive a certificate.
A daily writing habit
There is a lot of support and advice for the community with daily emails and pep talks from published writers. James Patterson, a prolific author who holds the Guinness World Record for the most New York Times bestsellers, says in his pep talk that the trick to keeping up the relentless pace is to make: “writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.”
Week 2: excitement fades
I am now entering the second week which is considered to be a tough one when “the initial thundering of excitement may be fading to a buzz.” I powered through the first week motivated by the new challenge. It felt exciting to get up early, creep to my desk in the darkness, and tap away towards my daily goal. I had good days and bad days as the graph below shows.
It is such a thrill to hit the word count goal, but even with my good days I am lagging behind the overall total and that makes me feel bad.
The advice offered by NaNoWriMo if your word-count is depressing you is to “Ignore it, and set a new goal, whether it’s to write every day, or to finish the first six chapters of your book.” I need to not focus on the shortfall and instead celebrate what I have achieved – 10,000 words in a week, 10,000 words that didn’t exist together in that form only seven days ago. And if I continue at this pace, I can double that by next week.
So with an altered goal and a cup of green tea to hand I need to stop wasting my words on my blog and put them in my novel.
The graphs above were calculated using a Excel spreadsheet given to me by Rachel Connor, who was given them by another writer friend. I have found them a useful tool to help me see what I’ve achieved and to spur me on the keep those blue lines at the top of the graph.