Sunday, October 27, 2013

In anticipation of NaNoWriMo

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Halloween is approaching.  Because I have a 5 year old, my house is currently focused on all things pumpkin, spooky and costume related.  But as soon as the trick-or-treating is complete and the calendar page turns, November will be here and in the writing community that means one thing:

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Write Month - where you do whatever it takes to write a novel in a month.  Well, technically, it's 50,000 words that you pledge to construct in the month of November, which isn't a full-length novel in many genres, but it is a lot of writing.  Specifically, 1666.6666 words a day.  (Deal with the decimal points as you wish!)

As November approaches, I see lots of blog posts and twitter messages about whether writers will be participating in the 50,000 words in a month adventure.  Some writers do this every year.  From the outside, it looks a lot like the author version of a marathon.  There is prep work (some brainstorm or outline ideas before the month begins), and instructions to the family that they will have less time to do household chores during this time.  There is lots of encouragement from other writers participating.  And there is a badge of honor at the end for those who complete the goal.

NaNoWriMo scares the heck out of me.  Why?  More than once in my writing career I've written over 50,000 words in a month.  In the last 12 months, I have written just shy of 500,000 words.  (This is a loose estimate based on the word counts of the novels I've completed since I don't keep any kind of running tally.  I'm compulsive about writing, not nuts.  Well...at least not that version of nuts.)    Needless to say, based on past history, I can write 50,000 words in a month.  So, technically, I could complete NaNoWriMo.

But I choose not to because just the idea freaks me out.  Why?  Because I am not certain I can hit 1666/16667 words every day.  And while I know you can make up those words on other days, I would feel as if I had failed with every day that passed where I did not hit that goal.  Those days of failure would eat at me and I would start to stress over making the goal instead of worrying about writing the story.  And that, my friends, would be bad.

NaNoWriMo is a wonderful tool for lots of writers.  The support network on the NaNoWriMo website is fabulous.  Everyone cheers each other on.  But I know me.  And I work best when I set goals for myself that I know I can hit even when my son needs help with school and I have e-mails from readers, my publicist and my editor or agent to answer.  For me, the most important thing is to set goals for myself that are reachable every day and that I am confident I can hit.  I have to keep up the goals that I can use month after month.

Does that mean I think NaNoWriMo is a bad idea?

Heck no!  Setting goals for yourself is wonderful!  Holding yourself accountable for those goals is even more important.  And NaNoWriMo is a great way of doing that for a lot of people.  If you are doing NaNoWriMo this year, I am in awe of your ability to set those goals and make them and I will be cheering you on.  However, if you're like me and feel stressed at the idea of the NaNoWriMo daily word count, don't feel like you can't benefit from the National Novel Writing Month adventure.  You can.  Set a goal you know you can make.  100 words a day.  200.  Whatever number you know you can make.  Then commit to putting your butt in the chair each and every day and hitting that number.  Whether you are planning on writing 50,000 words or 3,000 this month, I hope you use the excitement November brings to make your writing a priority.

On your mark....

Get set....

Write!

1 comment:

Scott Parker said...

My sentiments exactly. Up until this year, the idea of writing 50,000 words in a month was incredibly daunting. And then I did it for three months in a row. I do keep a spreadsheet and the analysis reveals that rarely did I hit the magical 1,667/day, but I did make it up along the way. But, for me, the mark to hit was 1. Write every day, and 2. Write 1,000 words a day. Both are doable, but the second could, sometimes, be difficult. Other days, I surpassed twice the amount.

The key thing I tell a friend of mine who is using NaNoWriMo to kickstart his writing is this: Come December 1, Keep Writing. Do not stop. You don't necessarily have to maintain the 1,667 level, but keep the streak going.

When I finished my second novel this month, I jumped to a novella...and promptly gave myself permission to write only 500 words/day on it. My writing rate has decreased, but my writing streak stands at 152 days in a row. I'm already eying a continuous streak until New Year's Day and beyond.

The secret of success in this business is constantly putting words on the screen, no matter if they add up to 50,000 in a month (or 1,667 in a day) or not. Just. Keep. Going.