NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month begins on 1 November 2019. It’s run by NaNoWriMo Org, a not for profit organization, made up of staff, volunteers, sponsors and fundraisers that support writing fluency, education and a social network for writers.
The 30-day writing event was launched in 1999. The challenge with this: write 50,000 words of a novel during the 30 days of November. Since then, the power of the Internet and support from the writing community has ensured that the yearly NaNoWriMo has grown in participants and stature. Nowadays, it has become a firmly, established date in the diary for writers and authors. So much so, that each year on November 1st, hundreds of thousands of people around the world join the challenge to write 50,000 words of their novel by the end of that month. I want to know, is it really possible to write 50,000 words in one month and more importantly, what is the quality of that writing? And can successful novels come out of this event?
Hyped up internet phenomenon or rite of passage for aspiring writers and authors?
It can’t be argued that NaNoWriMo inspires writers to get writing and work towards a word-count and deadline. The fact that so many people are going through the process at the same time creates a sense of community, oneness and a joint will to succeed. Being a writer can often be very isolating so joining in with this phenomenon can be a welcome break from loneliness. NaNoWriMo can be motivating and encourage people from all walks of life to get creative and get writing. It also helps to form a writing habit because to meet the challenge the participants need to write every day. The biggest barriers to writing are fear and resistance, so anything that can help writers in their psychological battle against these can’t be sneezed at.
On the other hand, most novelists would love to write a novel in one month but in reality, this doesn’t generally happen. Why? It’s physically possible to write 50,000 words of an initial draft in that time-span if you’re fully committed and put the hours in. That’s not in question and while it’s fantastic to get a manuscript done in 30 days, it doesn’t take into account the quality. To meet the goal, you need to meet the word-count, no matter how wretched the result! Anyone going into this should know that most manuscripts are then edited and rewritten at least twice or three times, often more and usually after receiving some constructive criticism. It’s far more usual for this process to take place over several months and that’s for seasoned professionals.
However, it’s also true that you can’t edit an empty page. It’s only by producing the first draft that a writer can move on to revision and it’s this process that usually results in a manuscript ready for publishing. Let’s be realistic – most first drafts are messy and imperfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. They will need work on them though to make them into a publishable format. The other thing to be aware of is that creativity often comes in phases. Your story isn’t necessarily finished after the first draft because through the passage of time, the characters develop, your ideas develop and the story becomes deeper. The first phase is therefore creating something out of nothing (first draft), the second phase is shaping the story (revision & editing) to ensure that your message or heart of the story shines more brightly.
Writers participating in the event, therefore, should not ignore the importance of revision and in fairness to NaNoWriMo org, whilst they very much emphasize focusing on the length of a first draft, they do also highlight the importance of revision. Unfortunately, many people haven’t heeded this advice. Editors and agents, now well versed with NaNoWriMo, prepare themselves for the influx of unedited and slapdash manuscripts that appear at the end of November. Don’t be one of them!
Can Participating in NaNoWriMo produce a Novel?
The official website for NaNoWriMo org advises that the event has served as a start-up incubator for novels including water for elephants, fangirl, and Wool, all of which, began as rough drafts in November. Wikipedia advises that since 2006, nearly 400 NaNoWriMo novels have been published by traditional publishing houses and over 200 novels have been published by smaller presses or self-published.
Can the success be put down to NaNoWriMo? Successful writers are by nature relentlessly persistent and will get the job done whether or not NaNoWriMo is in operation. They are the ones that stay up late at night when everyone else is in bed, set their alarm clock for an hour earlier in the morning, or have a notebook to hand to write in during their lunch break and they are the ones that step-by-step keep on writing day in, day out not just over the course of the month.
How can I participate in NaNoWriMo?
Writers wishing to participate first register on the NaNoWriMo website, where they can post profiles and information about the novels including synopses and excerpts. Word counts are validated on the site with writers submitting a copy of their novel for automatic counting.
Participating in NaNoWriMo is free. No official prizes are awarded but anyone who reaches the 50,000-word mark is declared a winner.
All NaNoWriMo winners’ can receive 50% off Scrivener and all participants can receive 20% off.
Meeting the Goal of 50,000-words!
On average you’d need to write approximately 1667 words per day in November to reach the goal of 50,000 words written towards the novel. This means you need to organize your life for writing. There’s no point in attempting it unless you’ve carved out time to write!
There’s also a NaNoWriMo preparation guide that can be downloaded from the official website and the website has a buddy program. So if you feel that you need extra motivation and to be accountable to someone to keep you on track, that can be organized through NaNoWriMo’s website.
There is also loads of support through NaNoWriMo’s social media pages (NaNoWriMo face-book, NaNoWriMo twitter etc.)writing resources on the website and through November, there are pep talks on there, inspirational letters written by famous authors to keep you motivated.
So will I be doing NaNoWriMo?
If nothing else, I’d like to see if I can overcome resistance and write 50,000 words in one month. If I don’t put out so many blog posts this month, you know why!
I’m already about 7000 words into my current novel so wouldn’t it be fantastic if I was at 57,000 by the end of the month. I’m writing my first draft by hand. Yep, you heard right. By hand! We’ll come to that in another post. I’ll be keeping a tally of my words per page to check if I’m on track but certainly, if you have an electronic version, it can be submitted to NaNoWriMo for official verification. I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month.
Now over to you – Who’s up for NaNoWriMo this year? Add to the comments below.