Okay, I know it’s still September and NaNoWriMo doesn’t start until November, but I thought to myself, Why wait to tell people what it is?
Before I get into the history and utility of NaNoWriMo, let me say this:
It is not a contest, it’s a challenge. Nobody gets a prize and you’re not competing with other people (though some people choose to “compete” with other Wrimos, it’s not an official part of the concept).
Simply put, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, specifically the thirty days of November. A writer must average about 1,666 words a day to make that goal.
The first NaNoWriMo was done in 1999. Every year more and more people accept the challenge and literally billions of words are written.
Critics say that NaNoWriMo encourages quantity over quality. First of all, I think that’s not really fair to say. The idea is to get the ideas out and worry about editing once the draft is done. Secondly, NaNoWriMo is like much in life: you get out what you put in.
There’s no question that some “writers” churn out 100K or more and it’s all crap. It’s also true that some people will rush from first draft to self-publishing without stopping to edit. But not all Wrimos are like that.
Personally, I use NaNoWriMo as a tool. It’s the time I set aside to pump out a rough draft. I spend weeks, sometimes months, preparing to write. Researching, outlining, writing character sheets, and, not infrequently, studying maps. When November first comes around, I am ready to go.
During NaNoWriMo I am trying to make the goal of 50K in 30 days, but mostly I’m just trying to get a first draft out of me as quickly as possible. While I generally hit 50K around Thanksgiving, I write until the story is done… which generally spills over into the next month, at which point I have about 60K and a lot of editing to do.
After that the editing cycle begins, but that deserves a post of its own.
If you’re one of those people who “always meant to write a book”, think of NaNoWriMo as the chance to make that happen. There’s community — and, more importantly, comic relief — to be had at the forums. If you just want encouragement, the forums will give you that in full. If you want advice on writing, it’s there too. If you desperately need a plot device, there’s a forum for that as well! Don’t be discouraged if you read posts and think quietly to yourself I hope that person has a really really good editor. The support is there, GO FOR IT!!
So! While I’m frantically trying to push Help Wanted out the door, re-publish Silver Linings at Smashwords and market both of those and The Sunshine Line, I’m also plotting a fourth book taking place in the Sunshine Line universe.
I think I’ll be ready.