Ah, NaNoWriMo… We meet again, my old friend. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the month of November is known by three names: post-Halloween, pre-Holidays, and National Novel Writing Month.
I am well aware that some of you may be unfamiliar with that last one, but it’s pretty straightforward. NaNoWriMo is a month for those creative writers who can’t bring themselves to finish a draft or people who’ve always thought about writing a novel but never gave it a go. The point is to write the rough draft of a novel, 50k words in 30 days. The event is totally free and based on an honor system, but signing up on the website brings you closer to a community of writers all subsisting off caffeine and sleep-deprivation as they rush through writing, quantity-over-quality style. It’s a good time.
50k words in 30 days is also struggle, let me tell you. In fact, considering my schedule for this year, I am probably too busy for it – I had decided earlier in the year that I would pass on participating, but I am weak. NaNoWriMo has been good to me in the past, motivation-wise. It’s fun and freeing to just write with abandon, ceasing to judge your own writing quality since there are a good few hundreds or thousands of people doing the same thing.
It’s you great when you have people around you – friends, family, classmates – who are participating as well, but I haven’t been fortunate enough to have that in the last few years. In that case, the forums are a pretty good substitute, with my favorite haunts being “30 Covers 30 Days” where you can submit your novel for a chance at a professionally-designed cover, “Word Wars, Prompts, and Sprints” for people who are in it for the rush of speed-writing, and “NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul” where we all go to complain and slowly die over the course of the month. It’s good though, we’re all going out with pained, tired smile. Embrace the late-night nihilism.
Indisputably, the best thread in the entire site is the annual list of NaNoisms, where writers get to post mistakes like no other. Some gems from my past include:
“Her amrs. She couldn’t feel her arms.”
“He tripped and slammed into the world.”
Those are simple, cute little mistakes, ones someone could probably make on a normal day if they weren’t the type to edit as they go. However, then there’s this mess, which could only ever have been a NaNoism (and it’s from a few years ago too, so forgive the bad writing style):
“Yeah.” Positioning himself more comfortably, he continued, an astoundingly serene, reminiscent expression upon his face. “Back then… hehe, I feel old now,” he mumbled. Cold feet was all it was. He got nervous, didn’t know what to do, so he started to let himself get carried away with little details and started to lose the point of the sentence from just the first words. He quickly realized this himself it seemed, and he carried on with his little story.
“Sorry,” he said with a smile to the confused but eager looking girl across the street. “So back then, it was pretty much the same as the other day sin SFS, just a new school, taller buildings, archways across the whole campus… he didn’t recognize her.
Alright, so first of all, I break the fourth wall – the one who lost the point of the sentence wasn’t my character at all. It was clearly me. Past-me was trying to shift blame. And then that entire second paragraph has no place in a fantasy story where schools literally had nothing to do with anything in the plot. SFS, which is the name of the school I attended at the time, most definitely had no place in my novel. Also the girl he was talking was not across the street – she was sitting next to him. This entire paragraph is a disaster.
So, how does this happen? It’s one of the joys of NaNoWriMo – desperate sleep-deprived writing sessions, sugar highs, and often times writing in white ink so you can’t see how awful your past writing looks. You can always change it back and read it for laughs later, or contribute to the NaNoisms thread. It’s a delight.
NaNoWriMo is truly a month of quantity over quality, and though it isn’t for everyone, it is something that some people need. And it’s fun. I think every aspiring writer should try it at least once to see if it’s something that would work for them. To many people’s surprise, there are several famous novels that got their start in this delirious haze of a month, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.
Although I am not convinced that NaNoWriMo is the best fit for me as a writer, I love everything about it. The spirit of it, the idea of it, the innovation and design of it – I have two of their posters hanging on my wall right now. The point is, the point that many aspiring writers forget is that it is easier to revise than to write. So no one should be afraid to have an absolutely abysmal first draft. NaNoWriMo also recruits professional authors every year to send out PepTalks to their members (past authors including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Meg Cabot – this year includes Maggie Stiefvater of the Raven Cycle books!), and all of these authors say the same thing:
Focus on one project. Get that first draft done.
So, good luck to me and everyone else who decides to participate. I’ll still be keeping up this blog throughout the month even as I rush through a novel, so we will see what happens. If anyone wants to add me on NaNoWriMo as a buddy, here’s my profile. I’m SableSCM, like here and like Twitter.
Hopefully see you all around the forums!