National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is approaching, and October is NaNo Prep month. I have participated in that annual writing event every year since 2010. For the past 11 years, I was one of my area’s Municipal Liaisons for NaNoWriMo as a way of volunteering in my community.
Usually, I have earned my “winners’ certificate” by the day they become available, but even so, I continue writing on that project every day through November 30th. I update my word count daily because using every moment available in November is a personal challenge.
I say this every year because it’s true: NaNoWriMo is only a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have your word count validated through the national website, you ‘win.’ It is simply a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing.
This year, my personal life has taken a left turn for the different. I stepped back from my position as Municipal Liaison. I will still participate, but I can no longer serve my region as they deserve.
I am already seeing improvements from the medication and the PT he has already been given. We’re fortunate to have good health insurance, an HMO providing us with a terrific neurologist and cutting-edge physical therapy.
An immediate effect of that diagnosis was that his doctor said he was not to drive. We live south of Olympia in an area with no public transportation and no uber or even a taxi.
So, for the two final weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, we will be firing up the Starship Hydrangea (our hydrangea-blue Kia Soul) and driving 30 miles a day to and from the clinic. This will happen four out of five days a week, barring snow.
Then, I will have an hour or two to kill at the clinic. I could take a laptop and write, but I find that more disruptive than waiting until I get home. Instead, I will probably read or daydream and make notes for possible plot twists.
And that’s not terrible. Taking a break from the grind helps spur creativity.
Usually, I end November with around 90,000 words on two or three projects. But twice I’ve finished with more than 100,000 words. Most were crap—I wrote them, cut them in December, and used them as fodder for other projects later.
50,000 words is an acceptable length for YA or romance. But for epic fantasy or literary fiction, it’s only half a novel. But regardless of the proposed length of their finished book, a dedicated author can get the basic story arc down in those thirty days.
I have no problem getting the first draft done with the aid of a pot of hot, black tea and a simple outline to keep me on track. All that’s required is for me to sit down for an hour or two each morning and write a minimum of 1667 words per day.
So how do we find time to write daily? I plan ahead and use my time wisely. Cooking and cleaning are things we all have to do. I think simple is best when it comes to food and housework.
I have a crockpot that gets a workout every winter. I use it two or three times a week for soups, chilies, and stews. I’m a fan of meals that can be cooked in the oven, and also of dinner salads. I serve tasty and eye-pleasing meals that don’t take much time to assemble.
We all have to live in a home, which means we all have housework. It’s not my favorite thing, but it’s how I get my exercise. I zoom through the house daily, wiping down surfaces and vacuuming.
When the holidays approach, I locate the cobwebs, spray them with hairspray, toss a little glitter on them, and presto! The house looks festive with little effort on my part.
(My mother’s ghost just fainted.)
(Did I mention I write fantasy?)
Anyway, as in many good things, there is a downside to November’s intense month of stream-of-consciousness writing. Just because we sit in front of a computer and pour words into a document doesn’t mean we’re writing a readable novel. Many cheap or free eBooks will be published every year, a testimony to that fundamental truth.
The real work begins after November. After writing most of a first draft, many people will realize they enjoy writing. Like me, they’ll be inspired to learn more about the craft. They discover that writing isn’t about getting a particular number of words written by a specific date, although that goal was a catalyst, the thing that got them moving.
For a few NaNo writers, writing becomes about embarking on a creative journey and learning a craft with a dual reputation that is difficult to live up to. They will find that we who claim to be authors are either disregarded as arrogant ne’er-do-wells or given far more respect than we deserve.
More people write during November than you would think. In some previous years, half of the NaNo Writers in my regional area devoted their time to journaling, writing memoirs, or even writing college papers.
For a few people, participating in NaNoWriMo is about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years. These writers will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing. They may find the courage to go back to school and maybe even get their MFA.
A good way to educate yourself is to attend seminars. By meeting and talking with other authors in various stages of their careers and learning from the pros, we develop the skills needed to write stories a reader will enjoy.
One good way to polish your work (which costs nothing) is to join a critique group. Be bold—ask the clerks at the local bookstores in your area if they know of any writing groups that are open to new members.
Every year, participating in NaNoWriMo will inspire many discussions about becoming an author.
Books contain ideas, and ideas are the most dangerous magic of all—a magic that topples kings and gives rise to great civilizations.
Dare to be dangerous.