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National Novel Writing Month

December 11, 2008

Although I’m far too late to even think about it this year (it’s over with already), I’m entertaining thoughts about participating in National Novel Writing Month next year, November 2009.

image from

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What is National Novel Writing Month? I’d heard of it before, but never paid all that much attention to it. I’d been much too busy with one thing or another to consider writing a novel. National Novel Writing Month is intended to be a crazy-fun way to encourage people to get off their duffs (well, metaphorically at any rate) and write that novel they have tucked safely away in their heads. In short, the point is to start writing on November 1, and churn out 50,000 words (about 175 pages by their calculations) by November 30.

I did the math, and 50,000 words in a month averages out to about 1,667 words per day. When I did a mock-up of this in Microsoft Word, using Times New Roman 12 point single-spaced, this came out to just five pages. And here is where the beauty of NaNoWriMo (as they like to call it) shines through. The event (which welcomes people from all over the world, despite its name) emphasizes quantity over quality. In order to achieve the 50,000-word goal in the time allotted, participants have to be willing to write crap and not look back.

As one who is particularly susceptible, I can vouch for the truism that you are your own worst critic, your own strictest censor. A hard deadline in which to crank out a rough first draft can be a good motivator. It forces you to eliminate that biggest method of self-sabotage, which is constantly going back to pointlessly edit what you already have, rather than adding more. Think about it: That first draft is all about getting it all down. Constantly micro-fixing is just a way of procrastinating. What’s the point of prettying up a passage if you later decide the whole section needs a fundamental re-write?

According to the rules, it’s okay to prepare plot notes and an outline ahead of time, but actual writing may not begin until the event has officially started. Naturally, what you do with your “masterpiece” once the month is over is up to you. Even if you don’t finish by the deadline, you can still finish on your own time. Many people choose to edit and polish their work into something a bit more viable. Some people have even managed to get their novels published. One person made the New York Times’ Best Seller list. A lot of people just say, “Well, that was fun,” and leave it at that.

They even have a Young Writers Program for anyone 17 or younger. It works pretty much the same way, only the kids are allowed to set their own age-appropriate word goals. Anyone 13 or older is allowed to register with the main event, but they will be expected to strive for the 50,000-word goal. It’s a healthy challenge for those who think they’re up to it.

Of course, if I mean to participate in next year’s challenge, I should start thinking about what I want to write now. I do have two ideas floating around in my head. One is to do yet another adaptation of Hamlet. The other is to do a sort of fantasy quest/adventure of the same ilk as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust or Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan. I always thought it would be fun to invent my own fantasy realm. Who says things like this always have to be based on established mythologies? Either way, I certainly have my work cut out for me!

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 2, 2009 11:40 pm

    Hi How are you? this is my 1st time out and I think I started off pretty well: This is a great community and I’m glad to be a part of it.

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