It’s October 19 today. That means that National Novel Writing Month is only twelve days away. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the kids call it) takes place every November, with the goal of writing a short novel (50,000 words) in only thirty days. For a full description, visit the NaNoWriMo about page.
Registering for the contest is free. After you create an account, you can log your word count with the online word validation every day as you write. It checks only your word count, which is all that matters for the annual contest. No one sees the actual content of your novel at any point during the contest. NaNoWriMo is solely about quantity. Quality isn’t even a consideration.
I’ve played along a couple of times in the past, failing miserably the first time, and then completing a first draft on the second and third attempts. My first NaNoWriMo “victory” led to what would eventually become my first published novel, Holy Fudgesicles.
It’s only words…
But onward toward the contest… A quick click on my Windows Calculator tells me that 50000 / 30 = 1666.67. That means you need to write 1667 words every day to successfully complete the NaNoWriMo challenge.
This contest is a must if you’re new to writing or have never finished a novel before. You’ll learn some really valuable lessons. First, by committing to NaNoWriMo, you’ll learn how to force yourself to make time to write every day. It’s not easy, as real life can–and will–do everything it can to get in the way of your writing, but when you need to get 1,667 word done no matter what, you’ll figure out ways to deal with real life and some of those tactics will carry over well past the month of November.
You’ll also be able to practice the discipline of being able to just sit down and write without going back and editing. Before NaNoWriMo, I could literally spend hours writing and rewriting a single sentence and still never be happy with it. The result of that was a folder full of unfinished short stories, some only a few sentences in. When you’re on a hard deadline like you are with NaNoWriMo, you force yourself to stop editing as you writing and just get the stupid story done. Seriously. Don’t worry about how well you write at this point. November is all about getting the words out. Clean-up comes later, and really, revising isn’t the monster that everyone makes it out to be.
The third, and possibly most important benefit you’ll gain from completing NaNoWriMo is that after the thirty grueling days are over, you have a novel! How many other people can say that? It’s actually quite the ego boost.
So Just Do It!
I’d like to close out this post by saying that even if you don’t “win” NaNoWriMo and complete the 50,000 words, just by participating at all you will have a decent start at a new novel and–win or lose–participating will teach you some valuable lessons and help you become a better writer.
So what are you waiting for? Bringing in an outline is not cheating, so start planning now.