It’s the week before November 1, and, as many writers know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
So why write a novel in a month?
It’s not that authors should rush through the writing process and complete a whole novel in a month. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is purely motivational. Essentially, most people always say that they want to write a novel, but they never make the time. If you get it into your mind that you WILL spend the entire month of November writing, you may be more likely to finish your novel.
If you sign up on the website listed above, not only do you join a community of people trying to write their novels, but you also get motivational emails and articles, which can prove beneficial to those who have yet to find themselves in the trenches of writing. As further incentive, you can even win prizes for reaching your goal.
The idea of a novel, however, seems ambiguous. For example, some novels are over 800 pages. Other novels, such as Twilight, are filled with blank pages, so the actual story may be quite short. To establish what is and is not a novel, the organizers of NaNoWriMo promote the idea of focusing on a word count instead, specifically 50,000 words.
Right now, you’re probably thinking something like this:
“50,000 words! How am I supposed to write 50,000 words in a month?”
It’s actually not that insurmountable of a goal. Let’s look at the math.
There are 30 days in November, so you could hypothetically reach your goal of 50,000 words by writing about 1,667 words per day, assuming you wrote every day.
So how long will it take you to write a little under 2,000 words per day?
Consider the following equation: if your normal typing speed is 40 words a minute, reduce that speed by half to compensate for the time you’re spending thinking about what’s going to happen in your story. Therefore, if you write 20 words per minute, in about 84 minutes you’ll reach your daily goal of 1,667 words.
As a professional writer, I write year-round, so I don’t often actively participate in NaNoWriMo. Additionally, I’ve almost always found myself working on projects before the start of November, so the timing has never worked out either. This year, however, I will have a project ready to start on November 1, so I might do my own version of NaNoWriMo.
How will my version be different from the national version?
Well, my project started out as a short story idea, but it has since grown to something quite larger. I don’t know if I would actually call it a novel-length idea, but I foresee that it will be something larger than a short story and shorter than a novel, which technically would make it a novella.
Over the past month and a half, I have been tediously outlining this story idea. Part of my outlining process has included writing three additional short stories to establish background information, although I didn’t originally plan to write these other stories when I started this project. Note that these three short stories are for my purposes only. Since I am writing a prequel story that is within the universe of my main novel series, I have to be extremely careful that anything I set up in this story doesn’t contradict with anything in the main novel series. As an added bonus of outlining stress and potential problems, I have set the story 150 years in the past, which provides me with steam punk-esque shenanigans, (YAY!!!), but it means I have to be even more mindful of how this story will affect future characters, groups, and storylines.
So – as a result of turning a simple adventure story into something complex but wonderfully brilliant, I now have an “outline” that’s almost 8,000 words, and the outline isn’t even finished. (I’m guessing the finished version will be around 9,000 words, and yes, my outline word count is beefed up because I’m including some dialogue and a little brief play-by-play action, but that’s just the way I chose to construct this outline.)
Therefore, my version of NaNoWriMo will involve plenty of motivation, as the national version does, but I’m using the month to complete the first draft of my novella project.
Although my version of NaNoWriMo doesn’t exactly fall within the parameters set forth by the organization, I think I’m keeping true to the spirit of the cause, which is to sit down and write. And, as November 1 approaches, I encourage all of you to get your NaNoWriMo on by either signing up on the organization’s website or by making your own version. Don’t forget to use social media tactics to motivate yourself and your friends. As long as you’re writing, that’s all that matters.
Before you jump headfirst into this project, though, here are a few tips to guide your way:
- Make a goal – if you want to hit the 50,000 word count mark, great. If you make your own version of the month, give yourself a reasonable and measurable goal.
- Make a schedule – give yourself dedicated writing time on a daily basis. If your regular schedule doesn’t let you write every day, figure out which days you can write, and block that time out before something else takes precedent.
- Outlining is not cheating – if you establish a plan of what you want your story to include, you will be more than likely to finish your story and meet your goal. Pre-writing via outlines, bubble clusters, etc., gets your creative juices flowing. Plus, no idea is a bad idea when you’re outlining—just keep writing.
- Put off editing – the goal of NaNoWriMo is to complete 50,000 words. Many of those words will be crap, true, but that doesn’t matter. The “novel” you complete during November is only your first draft. Keep reminding yourself that you will edit in December. For right now, get everything out of your head and on to the page.