When I first heard of it, maybe a couple of years ago, I was very dubious about the value of NaNoWriMo. But a lot of indie writers have participated in NaNoWriMo, and I wanted to at least give it a shot.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was attending some of the local events. There aren’t but a couple of them (maybe only one), but I do not have the opportunity to sit down with other writers and talk the way I did in college, and I miss that. I thought it would be worthwhile and fun. But as I’ve noted, time was not my friend in November, and I couldn’t make any of the events. So one of my primary motivations for participating never happened.
Nevertheless, I walked away from NaNoWriMo with a new respect for it. In my experience at least, I found it hugely beneficial.
If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a writing challenge where, to win, you have to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.
If you’re writing diligently every day (which I was not), you have to do about 1700 words a day to win NaNoWriMo. For me, that’s not a particularly high bar to hit. Obviously, plotting a story, character development, research – all of that takes time – but if you’ve done your planning ahead of time,1700 words can easily be written in a couple of hours.
I suppose the difficulty of NaNoWriMo depends a lot on your story and your writing style and how well planned your novel is before you get started. I knew long before November rolled around how my story would unfold, but for every hour that I spent writing I probably spent another 15 to 30 minutes researching.
The thing I found most worthwhile was having a goal imposed by a deadline. I’ve spent a career writing to meet deadlines, but I’ve never put a deadline on any fiction writing. Setting a goal and working hard to meet that goal forced me to put into writing what was already in my head.
For me, the last week of NaNoWriMo was a huge and difficult 30,000 word push. Fortunately, my wife cleared the decks for me and allowed me time to write. If it had not been for NaNoWriMo, I suspect she would have still expected me to do my part around the house – emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash … whatever else I’m supposed to be doing. The only thing she asked me to do all week was build a fire in the fireplace, and I think that took three minutes of writing time.
I’m glad I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ll probably try it again next year, though hopefully I’ll write a little every day instead of trying to squeeze my writing into massive 10,000-word chunks.
If you feel like you’ve got a novel in you but you’re lacking the motivation to write it, you might find that NaNoWriMo could be helpful to you. Throughout the forums there are a lot of people who were first time novelists, and in the little that I was able to go to the website and spend a little time, there were several of those first time novelists who successfully got their 50,000 words.
Writers, generally, seem to be a very supportive bunch of people. I’ve run into several indie writers online – either in blogs or on Twitter or wherever – and most everyone seems to be genuinely interested in seeing others find success. In the NaNoWriMo forums, it’s no different. Folks tend to serve as cheerleaders for the other people trying to get their novels written.
For my part, I was ready to give up on November 24. I’d only written 16,000 words and reaching 50,000 in just a few days seemed insurmountable.
But I read an email from my ML (municipal liaison), Lucy (aka boomchick). I don’t know Lucy, and she doesn’t know me, but as an ML, she sent a mass email to all the Athens, Georgia, NaNoWriMo’ers on November 15 (yes, it took me nine days to read the email).
In it, Lucy said, “You can absolutely power through this Novel, without a doubt!”
I read that and thought, “Maybe I can.”
That was my motivation to keep going when I’d already decided to give up – a mass email from someone I don’t know who did not know whether or not I could power through the novel.
But Lucy (aka boomchick) was right, and I did power through the novel, and if I’d not participated in NaNoWriMo, I would right this minute be thinking about how I should probably get back to writing if I’m going to finish Jackson Speed at the High Tide by the end of the year.
As it is, I’m now thinking about how I need to be editing and rewriting Jackson Speed at the High Tide if I’m going to publish it by spring of 2015.