My first sentence for this post was going to be, “If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, you must be living under a rock,” but then I thought that sounded a bit judgey. After all, I do live in a writer-centric household and I’ve been in the book and writer business for a long time.
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. This event has taken place each year since 1999 when freelance writer Chris Baty started it with a group of friends. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. That breaks down to about 1,667 words each day, which seems quite do-able. Of course, we’re talking shitty first draft, not polished manuscript.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo back in 2000 or maybe 2001 when I was working in events and community relations for Borders. I promoted the event back then, but didn’t sign up as a member of the community until 2006. I haven’t participated every year since then. Some years I didn’t log in to the official website. Some years I attended meet-ups and write-ins. It’s all flexible. The point is to encourage more people to write.
“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.” — Charles de Lint
This year, I’m feeling the pull. For the last couple days I’ve been thinking about some ideas I’ve had percolating and this morning I started outlining.
How I outline for NaNoWriMo is über simple:
I take a sheet of lined paper, write the numbers 1-30 down the left hand side, next to each number I write a few words on what I think the flow of my story will be, kind of like this:
- Girl meets girl
- Girl falls in love
- Girl is in the military
- Girl has to go fight a war
- You get the idea — I keep it short and sweet
This was helpful in early years because it took the thinking out of the process. I sat down each morning and just wrote whatever I was supposed to write that day. I’d write for an hour or until I hit my daily goal. On the far right side of the sheet I record how many words I wrote that day. According to my profile, my wordiest day was 5,498 words on November 27, 2011.
And speaking of that daily goal, I’ve found it’s better to have a higher daily word count goal than the bare minimum and to plan for a day off each week because life happens. I’ve also scheduled one day a week with longer writing time because, for one, it’s fun, and then there’s also the catchup factor. Keeping track of a weekly goal also helps because you don’t want to find yourself scrambling on November 27th, like I apparently may have been in 2011.
Some years my simple plotting plan has worked like a charm. Other years it was like pulling teeth. One of the best years was when I started out smoothly and then things got wild. My story went completely away from what I had in mind. And that’s when I experienced that fiction writer thing that I’d heard writers talk about — characters started to do their own thing. So amazing!
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, break a leg! If you’ve never participated and have the teeniest desire to write a novel, I hope you jump in! If you want to make it official and create a profile, there’s great support and much fun to be found at nanowrimo.org. Also, check your local library or bookstore–they might be hosting some write-ins.
If you’d like to connect as writing buddies, my NaNoWriMo handle is Schreibkrampf (German for writer’s cramp).