Monday, October 27, 2008

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo

Every November, the National Novel Writing Month website charges writers to write 50,000 words in one month. It starts at 12:01am, November 1st, and ends at 12:00am, November 30th. Once you’ve finished, you upload your novel to their website, where they run a script to check your word count, then issue a PDF winner’s certificate and web badge. They do not check content, just word count.

There are a lot of people on both sides of the spectrum for this exercise. Some people balk at the idea of churning out so much so quickly, because the quality of the writing could suffer. Some people find it exhilarating to turn off their inner editor and crank out whatever pops into their heads. A lot of people ask “is this something I should do?”

My answer? It depends. :) I know, very non-committal.

Personally, this is something I'd never be able to do. At least, not the way everyone else does it. I can write quickly, but my writing doesn’t thrive under these circumstances. I *know* that if I churn out 50,000 words in a month, without editing as I go, it’s going to be terrible. And I’ll likely have to rewrite the majority of it - I'd rather start over then overhaul a manuscript like this. Because I already know this, I’ll have no motivation to finish it. So I'd have to do it differently.

50,000 words in thirty days breaks down to 1667 words per day. Except I can't work weekends, and there are five weekends (totaling ten days) during the month of November. That means I'd have to get all my writing done in twenty days, which is 2500 words per day. I could probably do that...but then, there's my writing process to consider.

When I write, I don’t think about word count. I think about the story, have a “road map” in mind, and let the word count emerge on its own. If I was targeting a specific word count, my story would suffer. And that’s like sticking a knife in my heart and twisting... Also, when I'm writing a new story, I have to have the beginning absolutely perfect before I can move on to the rest. In my head, everything comes out of the beginning. So, if it isn't right, then my story is heading in the wrong direction. So I spend a lot of time on my beginning, rewriting a zillion times. But, once I've got it settled, the rest of the story quickly falls into place.

So, if I participated in NANO, I'd have to set myself a 2500 word count per day, but not be concerned with the cumulative word count. I may or may not finish by the end of the month, but I suspect writing with so many "buddies" would be so much fun that I wouldn't mind not getting the cool web badge to put on my website. :)

There are others who absolutely love NANO just the way it is. Some need this kind of permission to turn off the inner editor. Some just want to see if they can write so much in such a short time span. Some may be exploring their own writing process. And some just find it fun. Originally, I'd decided not do NANO. But now I'm thinking it might be fun, so I signed up. And who cares if I "win?" :)

So, if NANO is something you’re considering but you don’t know whether or not to do it, ask yourself this: what do you want to get out of it? A completed novel? The chance to explore an idea with no rules limiting you? A test to see if you can write 50,000 words in a month? That cool web badge? Whatever the reason, if you think you’ll get something out of it, then go for it! If you don't think you'll get anything out of it, well... :)

A big reason I'm doing this is for the comraderie, and I'd love to be your writing buddy. Drop me a line or look me up if you like. My Nano ID is 'tabwriter.'

19 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

I'm not going to be doing NaNo this year for similar reasons: I've gotten into the habit of editing as I go, and it works for me so why change it? Although I did it once and am really proud of that; I even have the t-shirt to prove it! ;)

Anyway, best of luck!!!

beth said...

I'm like you--I can see how it works for some people, but it would never work for me....at least not while I have a full time job, too.

Jacqui said...

I only have cheerleading to add:
Rah rah rah! Go Tabwriter!

PJ Hoover said...

I'm not in, but I'm with you in spirit!

Tabitha said...

Carrie - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. :) I'm still going to edit as I go, which means I probably won't get to 50,000 words. But I don't care. I'm doing it to write with other writers. :)

Beth - I have no idea how people do NANO with a full time job. Especially a teaching job. You have as much homework as the kids you teach. :)

Jacqui and PJ - thanks!! :)

Jim Danielson said...

I'm doing my own version that fits where my writing needs are right now, but I'm with you in a supporting spirit.

Someday I'll do NaNoWriMo....

Did you read on the listserv there might be a reward for most pages as of PWD? (from SD for those attending)

CJ Raymer said...

Yeah, I wonder from time to time if I've made the right decision to do this with all I have going on. And, they're not just "excuses" if you know what I mean. But, I do know that I need the accountability right now as I'm returning to novel writing following a year and a half "beak."

I love the partnership that happens within the NANO community of writers. Everyone is on the same level playing field with the same deadlines. We will all feel the pressure together. That's helpful.

XOXO CJ

Tabitha said...

Jim - I love it when writers see something that doesn't quite work for them, then change it so that it does. :) Good luck with your revisions!

I saw the prize thing at PWD, but don't really care about winning it. So I'll leave it to others who really want to win it. :)

CJ - that's exactly why I decided to try NANO. So there's a bunch of writers in the same boat, who will cheer each other on. :) Yay!!! :)

Sheri said...

Hey Tabitha, This will be my first year doing NaNo. For me, it is not about winning one tiny bit. It is instead about spewing out my novel once and for all. The way I look at it is the first draft is never going to be perfect, that's what revisions are for. I have spent the last year writing and rewriting my first draft and just can't get it done. I am hoping NaNo will help me get over this hump and finish. I have many chapters to add and the ones I've written already need a rewrite, so I won't be using previously written chapters. I am looking forward to it and think it will be a bit like the flu; you feel like crap while you... well… spew... but you feel so much better when it is done.

A screenwriting professor once told me, your first draft will suck, so don’t even worry about it being good, just get it done. It seems to be the same concept as NaNo

Sheri said...

Oh I'm Willow Rowan, be my buddy???

Tabitha said...

Exactly. You can't edit nothing...which means you've got to write something. :) Good for you for going for it!

I tried looking you up so we can be buddies, but I couldn't find you! :( Can you find me? I'm tabwriter.

keri mikulski :) said...

I'm going to look for you today.. I signed up last week. And you're right - everyone has to do it for their own reason.. :) I've got a novel due before the first of the year.. So, it's perfect. Good luck!

Tabitha said...

Excellent! :) I think it's much more fun to write with other writers, especially when we're all in the same boat. :)

Marcia said...

Tabitha, I've come out of hibernation to post(no no: I've come out of frantic activity to post; hibernation would be sleeping and that would be great!), and I asked some NANO questions, and here you are posting about NANO! :) Why am I not surprised? :) I really like your statement that if participating, one should consider what one wants out of it. If you believe that goal is achievable through taking part, by all means go for it.

Kelly said...

Good luck, Tabitha! I'm not sure that would work for a PB and poetry writer like me, so am opting out. I'll be cheering on all of you ladies though! I'm interested to see how the experience is for all of you!

Tabitha said...

Thanks, Kelly! If I happen to get to meet you at PWD, I'll let ya know how it's going. :)

I can understand how PB and poetry aren't conducive to 50,000 words. :) There's a PB version on Verla Kay's (I think). Have you seen it?

Tabitha said...

Marcia! I missed your post...oops. :)

I think it's hilarious how we're often thinking of the same things. :) I read your blog post, but haven't gotten the chance to comment yet. But I will!! :)

Marina said...

Hi Tabitha, I just added you as a buddy. I'm emeraldfin over there. Good luck!

Tabitha said...

Excellent!! I found you on the Nano site and added you to my buddies list. :)