A-NaNoing We Will Go

TyperwriterSo in about 21 days all hell breaks loose. All across the country – nay, the world perhaps – mad people try their hand at writing a 50,000 word novel. Insanity, I know, but it’s a valiant effort. Here in Boston, there is a very strong community who attempts, and from what I have seen, usually succeeds at this task. I have heard amazing and fantastic things about this group of people from Brandon for a couple years now, but now that I have moved back to this fantastic city I will get to meet them firsthand. That’s right… I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo again this year… and with a little luck, and hopefully some help from new friends, actually succeeding at it.

So for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. NaNo started in 1999 (in July, not November) in San Francisco with 21 people. The next year they moved NaNo to November, and it started growing to the 200,500 participants last year. Today, in fact, they are launching a new website for NaNoWriMo, so look for that soon!

The idea, really, for those of us who write outside of the month of November, is to really motivate ourselves. As a writer I rarely have a chance to say “I’m going to write for the hell of it.” Nine times out of 10 I’m writing for a paycheck, and therefore not only does that writing have to be good, but it also has to meet a certain standard; namely, that of the person I’m writing for. With NaNo, though, I’m writing purely for myself, and in general for NaNo – who cares about the quality? The point is to get 50,000 words written in just 30 days, and that is no easy task in and of itself!

Different people have different approaches to NaNo. There are some contestants who feel that in all fairness of the concept, they should start with a blank slate on November 1st, with nothing planned. I tried this my first year and wrote exactly 3 pages. That’s it. I had NOTHING. It was kind of sad, and almost pathetic.

Then there is another frame of mind, which creates not a one month event, but a three month event. Chuck Wendig (who wrote an interesting post on NaNoWriMo here) calls October NaStoPlaMo, or National Story Planning Month. And he calls December NaEdYoShiMo… National Edit Your Shit Month. His suggestion? Plan your novel through October, figure out your plot, characters, hell, etc. Then you hit November and you write like a madman (or woman) and knock out 50,000 words. Now, here’s the important part. Those 50,000 words. They don’t have to be perfect. You don’t write the next “Great American Novel” in one month. Hell, the story doesn’t even have to be good. Just written. Then you use December to edit. Turn that pile of crap into the next great American novel. Or if that’s not your thing… just turn it into something decent you’d let your friends read.

Chuck Wendig’s most important point about NaNo is something I am taking to heart this year, though.

“NaNoWriMo has a lot of rules: you’re supposed to “start fresh,” you’re not really meant to work on non-fiction, blah blah blah. This is all just made-up stuff. It’s not government mandated. This isn’t taxes, for fuck’s sake. Do what you like. Even better: do what the story needs. Hell with the rules. Fuck the police. Write. Write endlessly. Don’t be constrained by this program. It’s just a springboard: use it to launch your way to awesomeness. Anything you don’t like about it, toss it out the window. That certificate you get at the end doesn’t mean dog dick. The only thing that matters is you and your writing.”

Who cares if you start early? Who cares if you simply use the enjoyment of NaNo to work on the novel you started in August? This is about writing, not rules. So guess what? My NaNo novel? I already have a few thousand words written. Hopefully I’ll write an additional 50,000 in November, but if I don’t? If I only write 50,000 total? Tough shit. I’ll be satisfied, and that’s what matters.

NaNo2011

Not a big fan of this years badges...

So the point of NaNoWriMo? Write. The idea of NaNoWriMo? Write. Why should you do NaNoWriMo? To write. So if you want to write… want to write a lot… and want a motivational tool to get you going with it, join us for NaNoWriMo next month. And remember… don’t worry about the rules, just write.

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About Ian E. Muller


7 responses to “A-NaNoing We Will Go

  • Brandon

    After completing a successful NaNo, the last thing I want to do with my December is spend it editing that giant piece of crap. I think December should be NaNoSleepMo (National Novelist Sleeping Month). Then, to simultaneously give advice and pimp a thing for a friend, I think you should do NaNoEdMo (http://www.nanoedmo.net) in March. If that sort of event doesn’t work for your inner editor (my inner editor hates time requirements, it turns out) at least wait to January so you have some space between writing and reading the first draft. This seems to make things much easier to deal with.

    I do disagree with people who haven’t yet completed a NaNo and go in to it with an idea they really like. Usually their idea loses its luster about week 2, and they are so dismayed by this, they quit. So be warned, starting with an idea you’re really excited about and want to be really good is dangerous for most people.

    I’ve found it best to start thinking about it a week before NaNo begins. This gives you just enough time to find a decent plot and some characters and not get too attached to them before diving in like a crazy man.

    • ravnos

      Quite the fair assessment.

      I think going into NaNo with a solid idea could be dangerous to depending on the idea.
      I’m hoping I’ll be able to avoid that. If not – NEXT YEAR! Or something…

  • J.R. LeMar

    I’m still internally debating whether or not to try again this year. Probably won’t make up my mind until just before it starts.

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    […] writing early. Not the story I’ll be writing for NaNoWriMo (that’d be cheating,  AHEM), but simple creative writing. I’ll probably be posting some of it here in the next week. […]

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