I won my first NaNoWriMo challenge when I was 13 years old. I also won my last NaNoWriMo challenge when I was 13 years old.
NaNoWriMo, or National November Writing Month, is a big global fiesta dedicated to getting reluctant or detail obsessed writers out of their ruts and into writing 50,000 words of pure garbage with the idea that actually getting your shit together and writing a novel is the hardest part of the process. And, as someone who is never quite ready to start, and who can never get past the first 10 pages because I’m always going back and fixing things, this is extremely true. Essentially, you are given one month to vomit out 50,000 words of a brand new novel. You go to nanowrimo.org, make a profile, join other struggling Wrimos in cafes and wine bars (we’re classy like that), to get together and write. It’s a super fun activity and quite the exercise in willpower and intention. There’s only one problem that I’ve had each and every year I participate.
November is busy as heck.
Midterms, finals, and holiday plans, all this has always fallen on November for me. After 8th grade (in which I was struggling with high school applications, so I really have no excuse for not completing the goal every year), I would make a heroic and valiant effort for the first two weeks before gradually falling behind in a rut of exam fueled misery.
However, all was not lost! Even though I didn’t win, I met up with some super cool writers, got inspiration from them, and now have 3 separate novels all started for a future date. In fact, I completed 30,000 words of my 2012 Wrimo novel, and gained a miniature following by posting it in sections online. Without Nanowrimo, there was no way that novel would ever have come into being.
This year, despite college hell, sleep deprivation, and a whole new group of Wrimos I’ve yet to meet, I have a solid plan to complete my 50,000 word goal. Here’s what I’ve gained from my many years’ experience in dismal failure:
- Don’t stop at 1667 words a day. Write as much of the next week’s word count during the weekend as possible, because even one busy day can drastically and permanently throw you behind schedule.
- Come up with at least the first quarter of the novel before you start. While I detest planning, as it limits the creativity that naturally comes out when you just shove words on paper without knowing what will come next, I always get to a point a week or two in where my novel doesn’t know where it’s going. My winning story in 8th grade, for example, was literally about two kids running around in a maze of alleys in San Francisco and meeting all these magical characters. There was no reason. It just happened. For 50,000 words. A masterpiece in the making.
- Make Wrimo friends. The site allows you to see your friends’ word counts and them to see yours. Pride is a powerful motivator.
- Don’t worry about plagiarism. This may sound like the worst advice ever, but it’s a fact of life. When writing that quickly you’ll inevitably find your story or characters sounding suspiciously like your favorite book or movie. Leave it alone. Just write. You can always go back in December and change your young wizard, Barry Lotter’s name.
- If you’re not feeling the “muse” write boring gibberish anyway. Trust me. Better to write badly today and get it done then wait until you get inspiration. Because by then you will be rolling down hill of failure, your word count irredeemable in every way.
Most of all, have fun! The whole point of this is to do what you have never been able to do on your own. To create a solidly mediocre starting point from which to leap into success! Believe it or not, many published authors have started their books during this program, and many more will do so this year. However, if you find yourself drowning in work and responsibility, and the idea of forever being a NaNoWriMo winner (you get to wear the Winner’s Circle shirt and everything) is not enough to get you through, remember, there is always next year to try again.
And if you need a writing buddy to secretly judge you for your word count…you know, for your own good….. I am always down for more writing friends. My username is Secret Service (I was 13, I bet your usernames were worse). See you in November!