The Inevitability of NaNoWriMo

Well, it’s that time of year again, one which I’ve blithely ignored for a while now. Time for NaNoWriMo.

Now there may be some of you who are staring at these words in dumbfounded confusion, perhaps pulling at your hair or grabbing your computer screen and screaming, “For the love of GOD, what does that mean?!”

Well calm down, people, and I’ll let you know. Jeez.

It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a project that started about ten years ago with just a few people and now threatens to take over the internet every November. The concept is very simple: Lots of would-be writers plan to write a novel someday. You hear it all the time:

“Oh, maybe when I have more time to myself, I’ll start writing…”
“You know, I just don’t have any good ideas right now, but someday…”
“I really want to write, but I’m just not at the right place in my life right now…”

To be fair, writers are masters at excuses. I’ve heard my friends say that their house is never cleaner than when they have to write something, and it’s really easy to find projects that absolutely, positively must be done before any writing may commence. Reorganize dishes, scrape that black stuff out from between the shower tiles, wax the cat…

Point is: “someday” will never come. It’s better to just do it now, whether you’re ready or not. And that’s where NaNoWriMo comes in.

At one ZimDollar per word, I can almost buy a Tic-Tac!

Your goal, should you choose to participate, is to write 50,000 words of your novel in 30 days. In order to do that, you have to commit to writing every day, creating new content every day, to the tune of at least 1,667 words per day. The idea is not that you’ll bang out a publishable novel by Christmas, but that you’ll develop the writing habits necessary to actually get to the point where you can write a good novel with a shot at being published.

Because your NaNo novel will, in all liklihood, suck. A lot. But it doesn’t matter – the central idea of your novel might serve you well in the future, and you’ll have tangible proof that you can indeed commit yourself to a daily writing habit.

I did it back in aught-two with a theological science fiction thriller, which is still sitting in its Kinko’s binding up on my shelf. It needs a whole lot of work, and if you think writing a novel is intimidating, that’s nothing compared to editing it. I tried again in another year and failed, and for the last long while I’ve just let it go. I just buried that little twinge of shame that overcame me every November. I didn’t participate, and I was ashamed that I didn’t.

This year is different, dammit. I already have a daily writing project over at the Year of Stories, and I’ve managed to keep it going for 160 days. All things considered, that’s pretty damned good, even if I haven’t hit the elusive one-month goal of 50,000 words.

The question, then, is how do I keep working within the bounds of the Year of Stories and still participate in NaNoWriMo? The answer: cheat.

Well, not really cheat. Just massage the definition of “novel” a little bit. Since the goal of NaNo is quantity, and quality has nothing to do with whether you win or lose, I can pretty much keep doing what I’m doing and still shoot for 50k.

I have this t-shirt. You should get one too....

So here’s my plan: I’m going to go for a single, overarching theme that can be divided into five parts – one for each week – and write stories based on that. My first impulse was the classical elements – earth, air, fire, water and aether. Each element gets a week, and the stories in that week are somehow related to that element. I’ll keep looking for sets of five that might lend themselves to this kind of structure, but you get the idea. In the end, I’ll have a thirty-story anthology that is, if all goes well, over 50,000 words.

This will require a little more work than usual, of course. I need to plan some ideas out in advance, and try to work on things when I have more than two hours before I go to bed. But if I can pull it off, it should be a lot of fun.

Wish me luck, and keep an eye on the story blog!

UPDATE: I’ve run across a really good concurrent project to dive into: The 30 Characters Challenge. While it seems to be more aimed at comic creators than writers, we wordsmiths are certainly open to join. So I figured, why the hell not? I should be coming up with at least 30 characters this month….


12 comments on “The Inevitability of NaNoWriMo

  1. Just Be. says:

    I’m participating this year for the first time. I’m actually a little nervous. You know, with that whole “failure” cloud that looms around the head of every writer clouding my thoughts and vision… I’ve been going back and forth between a short story collection and a novel. Your idea of having a theme every week is really good. I think I’m just going to jump into it and see where the writing takes me.

    Good luck to you!


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  4. Maggie L R says:

    I wish you luck .. good writing and fresh ideas..
    I am commiting to write this year after an argument with myself on my blog.
    I hope you have fun.

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  8. […] brings us to National Novel Writing Month. I outlined my thoughts pretty clearly over on my blog, but to summarize: I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, but with a wee bit of a twist. Instead of […]

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