Thursday, November 1, 2012

First Thursday's Just For Fun: National Novel Writing Month

November means a lot of things to people: Thanksgiving, apple cider donuts, Movember, and so on. For me, though, and an ever-growing of community of people online and around the world, it's all about National Novel Writing Month.

Although I think the event's tagline, "Thirty days and nights of literary abandon," captures it all, let me give you a brief overview: the point of it is to write a complete novel in one month. Yup, you read that right: a complete (draft of a) novel. Well, technically, it's a short novel since the goal is 50,000 words, but it's still a novel at that length. You can plot and plan all you want ahead of time, but you don't start the actual writing until November 1. You can declare yourself a winner if you finish by November 30. It's not impossible - just 1,667 words per day - but it is a stretch, especially considering the fact that most people have jobs, families, lives, etc.

Despite the stretch, I have crossed the finished line twice now - in 2010 and 2011. I'm not sure why I've been able to manage it, since I know that plenty of people who start don't finish. All I can say is that there's something freeing about the quantity over quality nature of this quest. First drafts always suck, but I can't always give myself permission to ignore the internal editor. But NaNoWriMo does the trick, every time. She is still there, strong as ever, at the beginning of every November, but since creating something perfect isn't the point, she becomes increasingly easier to ignore.

So, why do I do it?

It's not to get published. I haven't yet done anything with the completed drafts from the past two years, other than a utterly desultory attempt at editing the first couple of chapters of the 2010 project. That's also not the point (even though there are a number of NaNoWriMo projects that have gone on to great things).

The point is to do something completely for fun, completely for me, and with no real goal other than that 50,000 word count. I know that I will, at some point, fall madly in love with my project. I will, perhaps the very next day, fall out of love with it and want to ditch the whole thing. I will, repeatedly, get so lost in the world I've built that I'll be startled by the contrast between it and the world in which I live. And that's why I do it. For me, the point of NaNoWriMo is fun.

Anybody else doing NaNoWriMo this year? Leave a comment?

p.s. For those moments when I can't shut the editor up, I turn to the most evil website there is: Write or Die. There's a particularly cruel setting that will actually start deleting your words if you don't keep a steady typing pace. Cruel and unusual... and effective for breaking through writer's block. I recommend it highly.


  1. This is my first year trying it out. It seems pretty daunting but I've had some ideas bouncing around my head and wanted to get them out. But as much as I tried, it always seemed something came up or I made some other excuse as to why I couldn't start. I figured this would be the perfect time to force myself.

  2. Oooo, Write or Die... You may have cursed and/or blessed me.

    This is my second (official) NaNoWriMo and I've got a late start. I don't see myself finishing as my schedule has taken a hit as of late (and I'm lazy and kind of addicted to Sims 3), but my production schedule is moving forward.

    I wish you luck!