November is National Novel Writing Month… for writers.
For the rest of you, November is for Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping. I may be vaguely aware of these things throughout the month of November. We’ll see.
The idea of NaNoWriMo is that you crank out an entire novel in one month. Sound impossible? It certainly isn’t, when you look at the technical details. First, how many words, bare minimum, are required to say you have a novel, and not a short story or a novella?
Fifty-thousand words. 50,000. 50k.
That’s a novel, at least in terms of pure word count. In fact, that’s 10,000 words over the technical lowest word count possible for a novel.
Why Participate in NaNoWriMo?
Your reasons are your own. Here’s my reason: I want to do NaNoWriMo to prove to myself that I can write a novel and that I can achieve stupid-ridiculous daily word counts. It’s a personal breakthrough I need to make for myself. I feel pretty damn determined about my writing since I decided this is what my life is going to be.
I don’t need this.
I want to do it. I want to cross that threshold and never look back.
If I do this, it will boost my confidence. It will also remove all future excuses I would ever try to get away with to myself. If I ever try to bullshit myself in the future, I’ll just remind myself of what I’m capable of. You wrote at least 50,000 words in only 30 days, so shut the fuck up and make it happen.
Sometimes, you have to burn bridges, not to other people, but to old parts of yourself.
See, if I can write 50,000 words for a month for NaNoWriMo, then why not write 50,000 words every month?
When you look at some of the world’s bestselling authors, their output is breathtakingly prodigious. Every month is NaNoWriMo for them. Maybe that’s the new price of entry. I don’t know. But the thought of being that prolific is thrilling to me, so I need to prove to myself I can do it or at the very least see what my limits are for now.
How I’m Going to NaNoWriMo
Yes, I used it as a verb.
On the NaNoWriMo website, they suggest that instead of doing a bunch of planning and outlining that you just start fresh with something new. That’s tempting, but for me there isn’t anything fresh and new. There are a few concepts in my head for stories and I think eventually they will all need to be written or they will drive me insane from unfulfilled potential. From time to time, I have an idea about one of them or another, and I jot it down in Evernote.
At least I have a few days more to decide and prepare.
On the technical side, my plan is to use Draft, because it has this brilliant feature called “Hemingway Mode.” Hemingway mode does not allow you to backspace or delete anything.
All you can do is simply write on.
You cannot give a fuck about any mistakes you make, you just keep writing. Inexorably. Like a Terminator.
It seems to me that is practical way to guarantee I’ll hit my word count, if I can tolerate the lack of editing. I’ve used Hemingway Mode in Draft before and found myself doing two things:
- Writing more slowly so I can think of the best possible words and have a better chance of spelling them correctly.
- When I did make a mistake, I simply kept on typing, but started over with what I was trying to say. The rest is editing, later.
I only have to write 1667 words a day. I’m sure there will be days when I can only write that much, but there will also be days when I’ll write more.
The Goal Isn’t What You Think
NaNoWriMo is not about producing a polished, ready-for-editing manuscript.
NaNoWriMo is about producing a shitty first draft, and that’s it.
It’s almost like passing a test, in a way: you do whatever it takes to complete the test. You need do nothing more.
Fifty-thousand words so you can say: “I did it. I wrote a goddamn novel. For reals.”
NaNoWriMo does indeed produce works that go on to get published. Make no mistake about that.
It works. Oh, man, does it work.
You’re doing this, too, right? We can be buds. Give a holler at me on Twitter. I’ll be posting my word count daily and making all those endearingly sarcastic remarks you never get tired of. Expect detailed descriptions of my carpal tunnel pain and pointless, agonized rhetorical questions.
Let me know in the comments if you’re participating NaNoWriMo. Misery loves company!