Welcome to NaNoWriMo
It’s that time of year again for writers. The frantic, frenetic build up of anticipation. In countless writing rooms across the world, professionals, amateurs and first timers are preparing for the magical month that is November – the National Novel Writing Month.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is known, is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. For those that aren’t quick on their calculators, that’s 1667 words a day. Every day. For thirty days. You start a new project – no previous words – and go from the very first line right through to ‘The End.’
Sounds simple? I promise you, it’s not.
There isn’t a more arduous, emotionally challenging writing competition that I know of. 1667 words may not sound like a lot after you’ve flown through over 2000 on your first day, but by the time you hit the middle, you’re feeling the strain. When the washing up is starting to cultivate its own life forms, when you realise you don’t have any fresh underwear for work tomorrow, when you open the fridge and are met with only emptiness – those are the moments when the thought of sticking yourself in that chair and forcing out your daily words is almost unbearable.
And yet it works, and people (myself included) keep coming back for more.
Why? There’s something unique about the spirit of NaNoWriMo that helps you through.
There’s the challenge – the kudos of being able to say: ‘I did NaNo and I won.’ How many of your friends and acquaintances have taken on such an enormous task and emerged triumphant? Unless you are part of some sort of writer’s group, the chances are that it’s not a large number. People talk a lot about writing novels on that mythical ‘one day’ when the inspiration, time and motivation all strike. The truth is, there isn’t ‘one day.’ There are lots of days, usually when one or more of the above are in short supply. To win NaNo, you have to push past all that and keep going. That takes a special sort of grit and determination.
Then there’s the graphs and the widgets – numerous tools to let you know how you’re doing, whether you’re on track, how far you have left to go. Both are massive motivators to keep your butt in your chair and your fingers at the keyboard.
Ultimately, though, it’s the community spirit that keeps you boosted and stops you losing your way. Friends can cheer you on, keeping an eye on your progress as you toil throughout the month. There are forums to bemoan plot tangles and compare degrees of caffeination. Your NaNo inbox is filled with a constant stream of pep talks from notable names in fiction writing.
In short, it’s exhausting and frustrating but magical and incredible. You’ll emerge from your writing space in December, blinking and trying to recall what this thing called a ‘social life’ is. But you won’t have any regrets. And with a bit of luck, you’ll have the first draft of that novel you’ve always talked about writing.
So, if you’ve had an idea buzzing around your mind for a while now, there isn’t a better time to get on it than National Novel Writing Month. Just make sure you have your cupboards well stocked with coffee – you’re going to need it.