I am a supporter of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a way to get people writing. Some people can’t resist a challenge, and NaNoWriMo is definitely that.
NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge, a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel. It is a speed-run with daily goals to meet.
Day 1 – write 1,667 words or more.
Days 2 through 30 – rinse and repeat.
If you write 50,000 words and have your word count validated through the national website, you ‘win.’ Reporting your word count has been an honor system for the last two years, so you never have to upload your manuscript.
If you do cross the 50,000-word line, there are no huge prizes or great amounts of acclaim waiting for you. You will, however, get a PDF winner’s certificate that you can fill out and print to hang on your wall or keep in your digital files as I do.
Starting on day one, you will collect badges, little visible rewards, for your daily achievements. One badge that is difficult to get is the “update your progress every day” badge. I usually have my “winners’ certificate” by the day they become available, but I continue writing every day through the 30th and update my word count daily.
We all know that a novel of only 50,000 words is a good length for YA or romance, but for epic fantasy or literary fiction it’s only half a novel. Still, a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.
With a simple outline and a few notes to keep you on track, that isn’t too hard. Most authors who grew up with computers (unlike me) can double or triple that.
As always, there is a downside to this intense month of stream-of-consciousness writing. Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you can write a novel that others want to read.
And unfortunately, for the first time author, the desire to publish that book without making revisions, and without professional editing is almost impossible to quell. Every year in February and March, many cheap or free eBooks will emerge testifying to that fundamental truth.
So why do I participate every year? I love working with the writers in our area, and hope to see the rare, committed novelist, the one who stays writing all year long. That person will join our region’s Discord channel and be a part of the posse.
More people write during November than you would think. In some years, about half the NaNo Writers in my regional area are journaling, writing family histories, or even writing their thesis.
Every year, my co-Municipal Liaison and I see a wave of new people who fill the vacancy left behind by the people who either lost interest in the first week or couldn’t find the time to get more than ten or twenty thousand words during previous years.
Those people sometimes feel like failures, but they aren’t.
Ten thousand words is two or three short stories. Twenty thousand is a novella. Writing a story of any length is an accomplishment, and those authors should be proud. They will write more as time goes on.
However, for a very few people, participating in NaNoWriMo will give them the confidence to admit that an author lives inside their heart, demanding to get out. In their case, NaNoWriMo is about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for all their lives.
These authors will take the time and make an effort to learn writing conventions. Grammarly’s website says writing conventions consist of four elements:
Some new authors seek out books about writing craft and attend seminars. They will join writing groups and develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle, and an incredible end.
They will properly polish their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it. They will have it professionally edited.
These are books I will want to read.
And one skill we must develop early on is a thick skin. Nothing hurts worse than to see your work through their unbiased eyes and discover it wasn’t perfect after all. Yes, some people will love and admire what we have created, but other times what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear.
For most authors success can only be measured in the satisfaction we get out of writing and seeing it published.
If your first novel is picked up by a traditional publisher, they may not put a lot of effort into pushing it, because you are an unknown author. They will test the waters and see what sort of reaction your book gets before they really commit to backing you.
Also, whether you are traditionally published or indie, you must do all the social media footwork yourself. You must get an Instagram account, a twitter account, a website, and so on. You may even have to arrange your own book signing events, just as if you were an indie.
This is time-consuming, and you will feel as if you need a personal assistant to handle these things. I know several authors who rely on the services of hourly personal assistants to help navigate the rough waters of being their own publicist.
Every year, participating in NaNoWriMo will inspire many discussions about becoming an author. Going full-time or keeping the day job, going indie or aiming for a traditional contract—these are conundrums many new authors will be considering after they have finished the chaotic month of NaNoWriMo.
However, if you don’t sit down and write that novel, you won’t have to worry about it.
November is a good time to do just that.
#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:
#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? (the storyboard)
This post: #NaNoPrep: What to Expect