Ah fall. The time of year when nights grow shorter, weather grows cooler (ok, not here in So.Cal…but in SOME places), and writers across the land think of what they will do for National Novel Writing Month- aka NaNoWriMo- aka NaNo.
For those of you who don’t know, NaNo is a month (November) when writers decide to announce to the cyberspace world their intention of completing 50,000 words in a new manuscript.
Now there are guidelines, and while they aren’t enforced, why do it if you’re not going to follow them? It should be a new work and it should be a book. Not a collection of short stories- a book. Like they say if you think you’re writing a book, they will also.
There’s no cost, you just go to their site http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and sign up. Then you look for folks you know and add them to your “buddy” list so that you can egg each other on. There are local groups for most areas, so even if you don’t know someone- you can meet some like minded folks.
Why would thousands of people, for the most part semi-sane, choose to inflict 50,000 words upon themselves like that? Why do people run marathons? Climb mountains? To have the experience. NaNo is like Mt. Kilimanjaro for writers. And it’s a great learning tool. Most writers, even we seat of the pants type folks- have some inner censor going on when we write. Some little voice that makes us stop and question ourselves mid-chapter.
You can’t do that during NaNo. In pure self-defense you have to take that little voice, stick a gag in his mouth and ship him off to Siberia. When you’re cranking out 50,000 words (page count of 170-200 pages depending on the writer) in one month- you are writing CRAP. Lots, and lots, of crap. And you don’t care! Your only goal is to fill up those pages. You can’t listen to any inner voice no matter how loud- because you simply don’t have time.
When you win (and even if you don’t I would think- I’ve won both times I did it ;)) you really feel like you’ve done something amazing. You wrote, created, and slaved over a damn good sized chunk of a book that didn’t exist until Nov 1. Does it need work? Hell yes- probably lots of it. But you did it.
It also teaches you to write through any blocks that come your way. You just bowl right over them. So when you return to your more normal level of writing, you’re not the same person. You’re faster, leaner, more stubborn.
I know since Dec 2008 (my first NaNo) my writing style has changed for the better. Dec 2009 (NaNo two)saw the launch of multiple projects at the same time. This September I did my own NaNo trying to finish a project under a tight deadline. I did about 15-20,000 words in ONE WEEK. I could never have done that without two years of NaNoWriMo under my belt. I write faster, and I focus tighter now than I did before NaNo and I think every writer needs to try it at least once. You may not finish, but you still tried something way outside your normal everyday life. And its fun trying to explain to non-writers what you’re doing ;).
Alas, this year no NaNo for me. That Sept. NaNo of my own kinda did it for me, plus I still have one more project to finish. Once it’s done and sent in for critique, I need to finish polishing the other two books. I can’t start a new project with the others not ready to go. I’m sticking to the plan I made Dec 1, 2009.
But I will be longingly thinking of NaNo 2010- and I’ll be back in 2011 ;).