Saturday, October 27, 2007

National Novel Writing Month

nanowrimo.gifNational Novel Writing Month begins November 1! (Next Thursday.)

If you haven't heard about NaNoWriMo before, all across the world, people set aside the month of November to try to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Just 30 days. (Most people participating have jobs or go to school so those are not excuses!)

Yes, it's insane but it's also a lot of fun :-)

What's the point? Well, for one thing, to prove to yourself you can do it. For another, to get the experience of writing without editing. That second thing is the most powerful for me: learning to write without asking yourself if it's good or not. As Chris Baty has said:
The key to NaNoWriMo success is to lower your expectations from 'best seller' to 'would not make someone vomit.' -- Chris Baty
The goal is to produce words. Not great prose. Just words. You can plan ahead of time, think up a plot, but no actual writing of the novel until November 1.

My daughter Kat (16) and I have done it (and completed it! often with minutes to spare ;-) 3 times now and are planning to do it again.

I've done it twice with ideas I came up with the night before. Last year I had a handful of random characters about a week before.

Considering the novel I was working on before NaNoWriMo (for ::: cough ::: 20 years) was just 100,000 words of notes, it truly amazed me that a novel could flow out (okay struggle out somedays ;-) of me without a great deal of planning. :-)
The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline. -- Chris Baty
You don't have to finish the novel. You just need to produce at least 50,000 words of the novel. No one reads what you've written. When you're done, you upload the file and a machine counts the words. (Apparently it's very generous about what it considers a word.) If it counts at least 50,000, you win!

What do you win? The satisfaction of having written a novel! :-) (And also a downloadable certificate you can print out and hang on your refrigerator.)

There are several people who have gone on to complete and polish their NaNoWriMo projects and gotten them published. So you never know!
Writing can be more fun if you stop trying to get it perfect on the first go-round. You can get it perfect in the rewrite. The first draft is all about making wonderful messes. -- Chris Baty
To produce 50,000 words by the end of November, the minimum you need to write is 1700 words per day. That doesn't give you much padding for the days the words aren't flowing and for little things like Thanksgiving, so setting a goal of 2000 words a day gives some generous padding.

Chris Baty, who began the insanity, says in his "No Plot, No Problem" book that it takes most people 1.5 - 2 hours a day. The truth is that it takes as much time as you give it. If you give it all day, it takes all day. (Which it does for Kat and me ;-)

NaNoWriMo has a website (above) with lots of tips and a massive message board with a huge number of tips and ideas and lots and lots of support from people who are also putting themselves through the torture. (There are folders where people are giving away plots and characters for the taking :-) There are regional "write-ins" where NaNoWriMoers gather in coffee shops and Pizza Huts to write together to encourage each other.

If you want to participate, go to the website and register. I think you don't have to register until you're ready to upload but if you do register you can post on the boards.

I'll be posting tips and such throughout the month (that can also be used as stand alone writing prompts).
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