One month, 50,000 words
National Novel Writing Month kicks off Nov. 1
For a lot of students, the only significance of the first day of November is the sudden realization that the semester is half over, and sometimes the overwhelming flood of stress that follows.
For those who are passionate about creative writing, however, Nov. 1 means the first day of National Novel Writing Month.
If you are unfamiliar with it, National Novel Writing Month — better known as NaNoWriMo — is a challenge for emerging and established writers to pen a staggering 50,000-word novel draft throughout the month of November. This is no easy task; in order to be successful, an author would have to average 1,667 words each day of the month – roughly equivalent in length to writing a full essay every day. The idea of writing an entire novel in one month may seem too daunting to for many to consider participating. However, the focus of NaNoWriMo is not necessarily to end the month with a perfectly polished, ready-to-publish novel. Instead, according to the NaNoWriMo website, this challenge should be “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing” that is “for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”
So, for those up to the challenge, here are some essential steps to a successful National Novel Writing Month:
Just do it
Open your computer and start typing, because the most important thing to do during NaNoWriMo is to actually do it.
“People always say, ‘I’m going to write a novel, and this is what it’s going to be about,’” said Beth Everest, one of Mount Royal’s creative writing instructors. “They talk about it but actually doing it is really hard.”
Writing a novel is no doubt a commitment – and a difficult one to make. But, if you are going to finish all 50,000 words of your first draft, there is no room for making excuses. NaNoWriMo offers that chance to commit, so take advantage of it and get writing.
Make a plan
Planning is key in every step of your novel.
“You get to page 30, maybe 50, and that’s as far as you get,” noted Everest. “You then have several chunks of work, but you don’t know where to go with them because suddenly either you lose interest as the writer or the novel just stops. What do you do with it then?
“Planning ahead of time, even though you still want the novel to grow organically, is, I think, really critical,” said Everest.
Having even a vague outline for the entire story can help prevent that, and you can always change it up or write out of order if you have to as well.
It is important to have structure: not only for the story, but for time management as well. It can be especially difficult for students to find the time to finish a story. But even students can set aside just a couple hours a day to work with their writing, and that could be the difference between finishing 50,000 words or not.
At some point during the month, you will hit the inevitable wall that is “writer’s block,” but it is important to keep writing anyways. Instead of spending that one or two hours you have set aside staring blankly at the computer, force yourself to keep your fingers typing and words flowing.
“You sit down in front of the computer, and you don’t lift your butt off until that time is done,” said Everest.
But for those for whom personal motivation is not a strength, there is a flourishing NaNoWriMo community – including a local group that call themselves the WriMotaurs – who hold gatherings and events that will help keep you on track in a fun, social, and motivating way.
Remember, most importantly, that NaNoWriMo is about having fun. You aren’t going to finish with a perfect novel. This is just a draft, and there are 11 other months in the year for revision, so just enjoy letting yourself write.