Mid-October. It’s marked by the crunch of colorful leaves on the sidewalk. The smell of MacIntosh apples and autumn night air. It’s also the time of year anyone who has that novel all figured out in their head to sign up the November challenge called NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. What started as a group of wanna-be novelists from the Bay Area in 1999 through the power of blogging and social media turned to over 200,000 participants last year. These novelists sign on to write a 50,000 word novel throughout the month of November. They have to start from scratch and submit their document for word count verification by midnight Pacific time November 30. Stats from the “NaNo” website show writers penned over 2 million words and that 37,000 “won”.
How do they win? They hit the word count or go over it. Winners get a badge to display on their blog/website and of course, have bragging rights. The point is just to get the story out. All the typical writing rules and usual traditions of self-editing need to go out the window for NaNoWriMo. The plan is to write, write, write, and then write some more.
NaNoWriMo has evolved over the years and their site offers forums for ages, genres, plotting questions, research, and even cover art for those that want a design for their NaNo page and e-mail signatures. There are also regional get-togethers where people meet at places like Panera to work on their novels with other who understand the obsession. Computer gurus design word count widgets for blogs, websites, and signatures.
There are also pep talks that make their way into weary writer inboxes.
Many participants are not full-time writers by day so this is their once a year time to enjoy “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” For some, writing is their life and NaNoWriMo gives them a tight deadline to put a story together. Published authors like Rachel Hauck and Amber Stockton use NaNoWriMo this way. Amber hopes to use this year’s NaNo to put together her latest, Stealing Hearts.
What’s an extra benefit of finishing NaNo? Some projects turn into (after several drafts, editing, and polish) a published book. Amber Stockton wrote parts, if not all, of Promises, Promises (2006), Deceptive Promises (2007), and Patterns and Progress (2008) as part of that year’s NaNoWriMo project. Linda Yezak admits Give the Lady a Ride was a “NaNo fail” because she didn’t meet the word count in time because she spent too much time in research. However, the book by the same title was published in March. Precarious Yates has a December 2 release date for her 2010 NaNoWriMo story, The Elite of the Weak, and is the first book in the Revelation Special Ops series. Her series is in the YA (Young Adult) genre. Lisa Grace has her 2009 work, The 15th Star, out as a self-published e-book in November with publishers expressing an interest. Delia Latham‘s Yesterday’s Promise was a NaNo, now White Rose Publishing, book. Traci Tyne Hilton‘s NaNo novel, Foreclosed: A Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery, sold 8,000 copies.
The drawback of NaNoWriMo is it’s easy to become obsessed. Amber Stockton gives wise advice. “Too many put too much pressure on themselves, seizing their ability to let the words flow. And the biggest piece of advice is turn off your internal editor. The goal of NaNo is NOT to write great, but just to write. Even if you think it’s awful or needs to never again see the light of day, that’s all right. Write as much and as fast as you can without caring about content, structure, order, or polishing. There is time to edit later. Get the words down first.”
Last year was my first attempt and although I hit the goal with my contemporary romance at 50,300, I let the numbers define me. I withdrew from family and let a lot of my life slack, including quiet time with the Lord. I’ve heard from a lot of writing friends who do this each year that competitive personalities will struggle with being consumed. This year I plan to try another Adirondack based contemporary romance but put the goal on writing each day, not hitting the 50K. I also confessed I haven’t quite told my family I’m giving it a whirl in case they put me on that Intervention reality show.
There are NaNoWriMo helps out there.
My Book Therapy–—Susan May Warren heads up the MBT gang and this year Beth Vogt is the MBT team member in charge of all MBT NaNo activities. They have a forum, resources, cheerleading, word count and other NaNo related prizes.
NaNoWriMo Cheerleaders from the Sidelines-–There are a lot of Facebook NaNoWriMo related groups out there but I recommend this one because I know it is Christian based. There are facilitators involved not in NaNoWriMo this year but understand the chaos it brings. They’re already on board cheering writers on.
NaNoWriMo Regional Groups—The list this year seems bigger than ever on the NaNo site. Most try to have weekly meetings to encourage each other on at a public place with affordable food and proper Internet connections.
NaNoWriMo Forums—Again, anything to do with the NaNoWriMo month is bound to be in the forums. There is even a forum for NaNo rebels who aren’t doing fiction or perhaps are taking the month to edit instead. The caveat is to watch your time management on the boards or you’re eating up writing time.
Other participants— Whether it’s finding a buddy through the forums or approaching friends you know that have done it before, they can be a great source of wisdom and encouragement. Julie Jarnagin, whose NaNoWriMo story Canyon Walls published earlier this year with Barbour/Heartsong Presents, advises:
“Stay up until midnight on the 31st to get a head start. You’re more excited the first day than you will be in the middle of the month. Set your daily word goal and stick to it even if your cumulative word goal puts you ahead. The extra words that build up will help later. Don’t let yourself spend too much time on the NaNoWriMo message boards. They’ll suck you in. Find a NaNoWriMo buddy and cheer each other on.”
So, now you know about NaNoWriMo. My question is, are you in? If so, where do you think this experience will take you? By the way, if you are part of it, my NaNoWriMo user name is JulieArduini. Like Facebook, you can friend each other, and you’re welcome to add me. As Delia Latham says, “Keep the coffee percolating.”