Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo and Me!

NaNoWriMo and me. Sounds ominous, like a showdown at the OK Corral. In a way, it is. NaNoWriMo can trigger a deluge of creativity, or show you just how much time you can waste fiddling about, waiting for a good idea to emerge.

I am a NaNoWriMo novice. I found out about it two years ago, but was too nervous to enter. I thought everyone knew what it was, until so many of my online and writer friends kept asking me why I was now secluded in a mysterious project with a funny name.

To quote the website: “National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.”

Sounds easy? Wait, there’s more!

More from the website: “The very first NaNoWriMo took place in July, 1999, in the San Francisco Bay Area. That first year there were 21 of us, and our July noveling binge had little to do with any ambitions we might have harbored on the literary front. Nor did it reflect any hopes we had about tapping more fully into our creative selves. No, we wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twentysomethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.”

Novel idea (no pun intended).

By 2012, they had a huge(ish) organisation, zillions of participants worldwide, an office and a website, and masses of publicity. Not bad for a fun gig!

The rules are simple:

• Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.

• Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).

• Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!

• Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.

• Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.

• Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.

Helpful tips include:

Eat lots of chocolate!
• Begin procrastinating by reading through all the great advice and funny stories in the forums. Post some stories and questions of your own. Get excited. Get nervous. Try to rope someone else into doing this with you. Eat lots of chocolate and stockpile noveling rewards.

• On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. You write on your own computer, using whatever software you prefer.

• If you write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, local time, November 30th, you can upload your novel for official verification, and be added to our hallowed Winner’s Page and receive a handsome winner’s certificate and web badge. We’ll post step-by-step instructions on how to scramble and upload your novel starting in mid-November.

That’s it in a nutshell. So, how am I doing four days over the halfway mark? I have written a grand total of 31 949 words! I have no idea how to capture a screen image, but here it is in figures. The amazing little calendar on the side of your NaNoWriMometer works everything out for you (no more calculators) and at the end of each day’s writing, just log it into the cute convenient boxes.

Your Average Per Day: 1,681

Words Written Today: 0

Target Word Count: 50,000

Target Average Words Per Day: 1,667

Total Words Written: 31,949

Words Remaining: 18,051

Current Day: 19

Days Remaining: 12

At This Rate You Will Finish On: November 29, 2012

Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,505

So, I am ahead, just a little bit. I did not do any writing today (see note further down about malevolent fates) so I HAVE to catch up tomorrow to get back onto schedule. I have never written like this before! No more dabbling around tweaking here and there. One is expected to forge on, relentlessly like a juggernaut to complete the final words—THE END— on 30 November.

The organisers give you loads of gadgets, badges, goodies, and help. They also give you regular pep talks, too. Along the lines of:

1) It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

Nervous writers should plan in advance.
2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

3) Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

3.5) There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through. Week Two can be hard. Week Three is much better. Week Four will make you want to yodel.

And we’re talking the good kind of yodeling here.

Pep talkers include Neil Gaiman (Coraline), Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries), Sue Grafton (Alphabet murder series), Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), Lemoney Snickett (A Series of Unfortunate Events), and loads of other awfully clever and famous people.

Audrey says: “National Novel Writing Month was a chance to jolt your story onto the page, to use the magic of a deadline to whap out your novel. Now that it is December, I hope you will kick back, have a cup of coffee, reread your 50,000 words, ponder a bit, and then… go for a walk. And on that walk I hope your novel will unclench itself in your brain and let you begin the long, slow, delightful work of rewriting it.”

I started with a great, big, whopping over 4000 words on day one. Wow, I thought, I’ll be finished by next week. Alas, it doesn’t work like that. Somewhere along the line, all sorts of malevolent fates conspire against you, the writer. All sorts of domestic problems or necessities, like shopping, (What happened to the food I bought last week? You ate it?? Why????) just intervene in a most annoying way. In the past, I would have carried on, and not sought to make up the word count I had missed. Aha! Suddenly I had to catch up what I had neglected.

No mistake about it—NaNoWriMo makes you work. I’m loving it!

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