We are a week away from November 1rst, which means we are also a week away from the start of the frenetic month known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal of NaNo (as it’s fondly called) is to write a 50k story in one month. No editing, no second guessing–just writing.
I first participated in NaNo in 2006. I had back surgery in mid-October, and was on medical leave from teaching until January…and bored out of my mind. After a several year hiatus from writing anything but lesson plans and the occasional blog entry, I decided to get back into writing fiction. Doing NaNo that year got me out of the house (attending a write-in at a library was not stressful on my back), gave me a goal, and while that story will NEVER see the light of day, it is a big part of forming my current identity as a writer. I made the goal of 50K words.
More importantly, it got me back into the habit of daily writing. Six years later here I am. It is a very rare day when I don’t get some writing done, and on those days I feel as though I’m missing something.
One of the great things about NaNo, whether you finish or not is that it provides a great community to support you in the effort.
Here in Singapore, there is a twitter account run by the local NaNo leaders ( @wri_sing ). There’s also a Singapore “region” forum on the Nano website (once you join) for online support. If you’re around and want to meet up with other NaNoWriMo-ers locally, there is a Singapore NaNoWriMo kick off party (I’ll be in Hong Kong, sorry).
Does writing 50k words sound intimidating?
I won’t lie, it is. The first time I did it, I was stretching to force the plot to just keep going for another few thousand words. But having done it taught me many things, the most important of which was that I COULD write a longer piece (for the record, the average novel is actually more like 90K words–50k is a novella). I also learned a great deal about character development, my writing process, and how to just keep writing instead of waiting for my muse to alight gently on my shoulder and dictate deathless prose for me to type.
The best advice I’ve read on this topic comes from one of my favorite YA authors, Maureen Johnson, who said
Now, I am assuming what you are actually asking me is if you should just go in without preparation of some sort. That’s what I’m taking from the question. And my answer is, YES. You just do it. Writing is not like going into space or drilling a hole to the center of the earth to find a colony of earth core monsters … you don’t need to make plans or get special equipment. In fact, “preparing” to write is just a form of procrastination. I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they are “about” to write something. Nothing is stopping you. There is no right time. There is no magic machine or special pen. You don’t have to wait for the stars to be in alignment. You just start.
I’m joining, although with two young children, this blog, my other writing, and a week of travel at the end of the month, I realize that it is unlikely I’ll actually hit 50k. But the goal of NaNo isn’t necessarily to finish (at least for me); the goal of NaNo is to get moving on a story I’ve been wanting to write. So, make or miss the goal, I am in.
Let me know if you’re doing it, and I’ll add you as a writing buddy!
We’re leaving for Disney in the morning. I can’t wait to see the look on Elanor’s face when she sees her first character, especially if that character is a princess.