There are few rules around NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth): Start a novel from scratch and write at least 50,000 words throughout the month of November. If you hit your word count, you win.
When it's broken down to a daily target, 1,667 words doesn't seem so hard. It's less than the average chapter length for a novel marketed to adults. The problem is that most of us write in our spare time, forcing our brains to cooperate with a scene after a long day at work. Life gets in the way. Migraines happen. Sometimes the words won't form. Forced on a consistent basis, 50k words a month will lead to burn out and a severe lack of editing.
If forced word count leads to burn out, why would anyone participate?
The main reason I participate is to force myself into finishing a piece of work I've already started. This goes against one of the rules of NANOWRIMO, but since most of my work ends up around 80,000 word mark, I can easily add another 50k to a novel I've already started. The starts are always the most tedious part as I tend to rewrite them over and over, getting sucked into an editing loop that wouldn't end if I didn't force myself into a different work pattern. NANOWRIMO helps me achieve that new pattern.
During NANOWRIMO, I give myself permission to blaze forward without editing. I make rough notes where I feel there is a deficiency and force myself to move on. I surround the notes by characters I wouldn't normally use in my writing to I can easily pick them out. When I go back through my work, I see notes like <<describe emotion instead of stating>>, <<make prettier>>, and <<Would she do this?>>
If you want to participate in NANOWRIMO, I have a few recommendations based on what has helped me out:
- Spend the prior month (at least) plotting
- Keep a notebook to write down scene ideas, but don't write the scenes in their entirety
- Don't be afraid to rewrite or add to an existing piece
- Find a note system that works for you to mark places you want to change
- Don't stop to edit
- Don't stop to search for the perfect word or description
- Join a writing group or class and discuss your progress
- Set a goal that's reasonable for your life (if you can hit 25k, set that as your goal instead)
- Have a plan for what you want to do with your book after you finish
I'm lucky I have a spouse who will pick up the slack during November. I don't cook, clean, or participate in many social functions. When I'm not at work, I'm writing. Fortunately, football is in full swing and Lance doesn't seem to mind that I'm furiously typing beside him rather than watching the game. While NANOWRIMO is a great tool to help me hit a deadline, it's not the normal pace I can work because I grow tired and miss my friends. And that's okay.
Have you tried NANOWRIMO? What did you think? Is there something you would suggest to help others?