“I’m doing National Novel Writing Month,” I tell my writing students. “It’s fun.”
They give me the look I give my trainer when he talks about a “really fun triathlon.”
It’s like that really fun diet where you eat nothing but chard.
But it is fun, and thousands of people participate every year. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. To help you, the folks at National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it is frequently called) provide a free website where you can sign up to document your word count (on the honor system), connect with other writers, and buy T-shirts and other souvenirs.
At the beginning of the month, you start a new project. It’s fine to have some outlines and character sketches to guide your work, but NaNoWriMo is not where you go to finish the last 50,000 words of your 500,000 epic.
The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to complete a huge, month-long free write. Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t worry about punctuation. Don’t worry if your plot changes midway. Don’t even worry if, after the month is over, not one sentence of your NaNoWriMo writing gets in the final draft. And don’t think that your NaNoWriMo draft is the final.
If you do it the right way, National Novel Writing Month isn’t about finishing a novel, it is about embarking on a project. It is about exploration.
“Winning” National Novel Writing Month entails simply finishing the challenge. If you write 50,000 words, you win. Finishing a publication-ready novel takes a lot more. But National Novel Writing Month is still worth the time. Here’s why:
- You have nothing to lose.
- Nothing is as intimidating as a blank screen or a blank page. NaNoWriMo forces you to get started.
- The NaNoWriMo word-count tracker is surprisingly motivating.
- Writing quickly frees you from your internal censor, making you more creative and more productive.
- Because your writing is fast and sloppy, you won’t feel bad about cutting large portions when you go back to edit.
- If you haven’t written something of this length, NaNoWriMo can be a huge confidence booster.
- NaNoWriMo gives you a way to talk about your work and a community to share it with.
- You can polish your NaNoWriMo work and submit it for publication or you can use the month for personal exploration through writing.
- If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can move on to the next project without judgement or regret.
- You may just write the next great American novel.
NaNoWriMo is hard. If the book I’m writing this November gets published, it will be my fifth book. My third novel, The Purveyor, also started at NaNoWriMo. I’ve done this before and it’s still hard. It’s supposed to be. Things that are worth doing are challenging.
Telling stories is worth doing. Sharing your world is worth doing. Exploration is worth doing.
Writing is worth doing.
Karelia is author of The Admirer, The Purveyor, and Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before.
For more on writing, great books to read, and general inspiration, join her monthly newsletter, News from the Purveyor.