Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor
Lofty ambitions are the things humans are made of. Some of us want to find the Lost City of Atlantis. Others want to make it into the book of World Records for longest toe nails. I just want to write a novel. Seems crazy, right? WRONG. You know why? NaNoWriMo.
I’m not speaking in code. National Novel Writing Month is an annual event held every November from the very first day all the way till the last, equalling out to thirty days. In those thirty days, you write a combined total of 50, 000 words. That seems like a huge amount of “the,” “a,” “but,” “no,” and so on and so forth.
It’s a big number, right? RIGHT? Well, after looking on Wikipedia (oh so reliable sourcing), the average novel is over 40, 000 words. Novellas are anywhere from 17, 500 to 40, 000 and short stories average at 7, 500 words. When you think about it, you’re just writing a bunch of short stories. Every day.
Okay, every day might be a bit excessive, but that’s the guide line set out on the NaNo website. On said website, you make an official account, create a novel, and update your word count. When I started back in 2010, I was, shall we say, going through a stupid stage when it came to naming things. I was young, I didn’t know any better! I’m stuck with a stupid name, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write an awesome novel in thirty days!
Back to the point, though. In order to finish by Nov. 30, the site says you should write 1, 667 words per day. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at typing, so it usually takes me a little over an hour to make that word count happen. Sometimes two, if I’m distracted. But, finding a chunk of time to just sit down and write is not easy. However, being as experienced as I am (or not), I’ve figured out some helpful tips to make this daily writing thing possible.
Start off with a bang. Find time that first day to write as much as possible. It gets your word count up, and it makes you feel less guilty if you can’t find an hour to write the next day. By no means should this novel challenge come before school or work, but if you do it as a reward system, it can make you get your homework done faster AND write for a while. Something I read online that’s been really helpful is to round up. 1, 667 is an odd number. Give yourself the goal of 2, 000 words instead. It can make keeping track of where you’re at way easier.
Don’t compare yourself to other word counts! You can be “writing buddies” with people on the website, and this gives you the ability to see where others are at in their novel. If WritingQueen263 is already at 10, 000 words on the third day, don’t sweat it! This is your novel. It’s your baby, and all babies are different. Some learn to walk quicker than others. As long as you feel like you’re progressing nicely, and you’re happy with what you’re writing, then who cares what someone in Tokyo is putting out?
Also, revising is not necessary! The challenge is to put out 50, 000 words in 30 days. Editing isn’t always going to fit into the schedule, and that’s okay! Personally, I always read over what I’ve written just to get a feel for where I left my characters, and sometimes I do edit a bit, but I try my best not to for the sake of time and my own sanity. After those thirty days are up and I’m left with a fuck-ton of words, that’s when the real fun begins.
If you can’t set aside more than thirty minutes at a time during your day, don’t panic. Sometimes it’s better to write in little spurts during the day. You can get inspired by something a professor says and it can be a great addition to your work. Plus, it gives those fingers a necessary break.
If you feel like 50,000 is too much, that you just can’t do it, don’t give up. I’ve known people who use this challenge as a way to get an idea on paper, and while they don’t get to the word mark, they still create an amazing story that they can work on later when they have more time. Word count should never make you hate your baby.
I remind myself every day of these things, and it’s making finishing my work easier. To be fair, sometimes I put off certain things just so I can write. I get up a little earlier, I write through a lunch break, I put off writing an article about NaNo . . . but I’m a write-aholic. The first step is admitting I have a problem, and I certainly have one.
When I first started writing a novel in 2010, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had stuck to short stories and poetry before, so I was going in blind. It was hard, so very, very hard. I did not get to the word count goal. In the last few days I got a thing called “I hate my novel why did I ever think this was a good idea it’s all a cliché my life is ruined.” Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who suffers with it during NaNoWriMo. It went away after Nov. 30 was gone, and I eventually did finish my first novel. That, my friends, was the most rewarding experience of my life. After that, I was hooked.
Since 2010, I have written several novels, not all for NaNo, and I’ve even self-published one. It’s not my best work, but hey, I can cross that off my bucket list now.
You might realize you don’t like writing long pieces after this. There’s nothing wrong with that! Every writer is different, and every writer has a different story to tell in a different way. Boxing ourselves in is the worst thing we can do as writers. I’ve taken enough creative writing classes and read enough books to know my job is not to write the story everyone wants me to tell, or someone has already told. That’s a disservice to my passion and to myself.
NaNoWriMo has been a great help in getting me to write the stories I didn’t even know were wanting to be written. The current novel I am working on is inspired by too many late nights reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Although the themes, characters, and plot are completely different, I often ask myself “What would Evil Santa do?” That train of thought usually ends with “kill everyone” but I haven’t reached that stage in the novel. Yet.
Is doing this challenge worth it? Hell yes. Is it stressful, frustrating, and all those other synonyms? Of course. But what, these days, isn’t?
If you’ve ever had a story idea and thought “Gee, I wish I could write that,” well what’s stopping you? Nothing, that’s what. Go to www.nanowrimo.org, create an account, and get started! You may not make the word count, but you’ll feel awesome, and anything that makes us feel that good about ourselves can’t be that bad, can it?