On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of writers – both novice and professional – will take up their pens, flick to a clean page in their notebook and set out on the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge. For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo, during the 30 days of November these incredibly brave souls will attempt to complete 50,000 words on a new project. Yes, that really does mean 1,666 words a day.
The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to encourage the people who say ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book’ to get on and do it. Is it possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days? Yes, no doubt about it. Every year, thousands of people do it. Is it a finished product? No, is the simple answer, not even close. What you have is roughly half to two-thirds of a novel in its most raw form, but at least it’s a start.
I was recently inspired to take part in NaNoWriMo after reading ‘Into The Darkest Corner’ by Elizabeth Haynes. I later met the writer at an event and found out that she began the book during the November challenge in 2008. So why have I chosen not to do it this year? There are a couple of main reasons:
- New Job: after several months of unemployment I’ve started a new full-time job and getting up to speed is exhausting. You could rightly say the job is 9-5 and therefore I have plenty of time to write around that. I would agree, but tack on an hour of commuting at either end of the day, and you’ll understand why I’m reluctant to sit down at a computer after 8 hours of writing for my paid job. Admittedly I do write my first draft by hand and I can and do write on the train but it’s not really enough time.
- Competitiveness: I am incredibly competitive and I would hate it if I fell below the 1,666 daily word count, which I inevitably would because it’s 1,666 words every single day, Saturdays and Sundays too. Yes, I would have the support of other entrants, but in trying to create some kind of work/life balance I feel I couldn’t fully commit to NaNoWriMo and keep my sanity. Plus I feel writing to such a strict deadline would take away the fun of being creative and make a really enjoyable hobby (which could become a career) into a chore.
- My current Work-in-Progress (WIP): the idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you begin a new project on November 1st and work on that idea. I have ideas I certainly could work on, but being over 50,000 words into what is affectionately called Book Two (Book One as yet unpublished) it would be foolish to start something entirely new as I’d lose the thread on what I’m writing now. I could cheat and use the time to complete Book Two since 50,000 words would more than finish it off, but that’s not in the spirit of NaNoWriMo now is it?
So instead I shall continue to plod along, adding as much to my WIP as I possibly can and, like the proverbial tortoise, slow and steady I’ll get there in the end, much the same as I did with Book One. But I never say never, so who knows next year could be my NaNoWriMo year.
Good luck to everyone taking part – see you on the other side!
I’d love to hear from other writers about their NaNoWriMo experiences? What are your reasons for taking part – or not – in the challenge? Do you normally set yourself a deadline/word count or does it stifle your creativity?