For the uninitated, NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days (the 30 days that comprise November, to be more specific). 50,000 looks like a large number (it’s actually a fairly small novel), but if you break it down into 30 portions it’s about 1,667 words each day. I round it up to 1,700, which is about 2.5 pages with the default settings in MSWord. This is a totally doable goal, especially when writing late at night.
For me the greatest benefit is the deadline. The idea is to submit your typed 50,000 words to the NaNo wordbots by midnight on the 30th. When they’ve verified (no real person reads it) your words you get a nifty certificate and bragging rights.
That is all.
But really, that’s all I need. I get ideas all the time. In the past I would make abortive attempts to write my stories down but after about the first few pages ( I think I got to thirty one time), I’d be working on the next idea — which I wouldn’t finish. NaNo’s 50,000 words is not necessarily going to be the entire story arc (no working on already started works), but even though I don’t finish the story, by the 50,000th word I’m deep enough into the narrative that it is much more worthwhile to keep going than to abort. I try to finish the story during NaNo because if I don’t, I can’t write on that scale the rest of the year.
None of this kick-in-the-seat of the pants thing means that the writing is any good. Many of the criticisms I read and get from friends and family is that quantity doesn’t equal quality and that writing in such a breakneck way really means you’ve spent a month churning out crap.
Which is true. It is crap.
However, I think of it like sculpting. You get a chuck of clay and moosh it into the general shape of the piece. This is the NaNo part the volume, the first draft. Then you take your fingers and prod it until in has the general look. This is the editing. You keep using finer and finer tools until you are outlining hair. Without that first volume of clay, the piece could never be started in the first place.
Believe me, nobody in NaNoWriMo thinks they are writing anything but a first draft. To write a full piece with a beginning and a middle and an end, you need to keep up the momentum, keep the goal in sight. With the help of an online community, NaNoWriMo helps us do just that.
I spend all year thinking about this event. I usually write a story I’ve spend the last year or two thinking about. I figure out my characters their motivations and goals. I’m posting this now because I’m lining up my suspects for 2009…