Admittedly it was confusing and intimidating in October thinking about joining tens of thousands of other writers from around the world, primarily in North America, for a writing competition.
November's 2007 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was a big success according to Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo Director, who counted 101,510 participants this year with 15,333 folks crossing the finish line – a new NaNoWriMo record. That's approximately a 15% completion ratio, so accomplishing the final goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is not an easy task.
I'd heard about NaNoWriMo from other writers, and then wrote a couple of articles about the event in past editions of Inkwell Newswatch. However, up until the point of actually joining NaNoWriMo, I had only tackled and accomplished article writing. A couple of years ago I started, and roughly finished a manuscript that threw me into an emotional tizzy and the manuscript into the closet. I wasn't all that enthusiastic about giving NaNoWriMo a try. I like writing articles, and novels are an enormous undertaking.
It is a daunting commitment to write 2,000 words each and every day for 30 days. Stop and think about that commitment for a moment. Think about your existing lifestyle, your current responsibilities, hours you spend at work, your social life, then add a self-imposed 2,000 words per day writing project. Whew!
What prompted me to join wasn't what one might believe. It wasn't the idea of writing a novel that triggered my excitement, it was a novel writing software package that had been handed to me by our General Manager, Rowdy Rhodes, to test and evaluate. So I installed the package and was faced with a blank page. Uh, oh! But, by the time the November 1st NaNoWriMo start date rolled around I was looking forward to the challenge.
I had also told a few close friends and family members. They encouraged me, telling me that they would give me time and space to try and accomplish my goal. I've subsequently found that this is paramount to novel writing success. Without flexibility in your schedule and social support, you're already behind the eight ball. Fortunately my family and friends were in my corner, come what may.
Then within NaNoWriMo I discovered there were Word Wars between groups within the competition. Toronto, Chicago, and New York writers had challenged one another. A call went out for fifty writers from each city to be selected. I volunteered and was chosen even though I was a newbie.
I found myself writing for reasons beyond filling a blank page. I was writing for personal pride and satisfaction, city bragging rights if we could collectively out write New York and Chicago – I was writing for my country, friends, family, even my colleagues here at IN.
That was more than enough to bring my daily adrenaline level up to achieve my goal. When all was said and done, I passed the 50K mark, accomplished not in thirty days, but in twenty-six! I had "won" and so did the Toronto writing team, with a November 30th final word score of:
New York: 2,859,051
The total collective NaNoWriMo word count this year was a whopping 1,187,931,929 – over one billion words!
As you may, or may not, know there are no prizes awarded in this competition, it's for personal satisfaction. Doing so, I now know that under the right circumstances I will always be able to write 2,000 words per day if need be.
Other winners that I know about from our own membership here who responded to Rowdy's Writers Site News mailing are:
Dave Waddell: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/237477
"Thanks to you I now have a rough draft of my novel. I only found out about NaNoWriMo through the newsletter."
Marie Ann Bailey: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/201643
"I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, and I actually made it through: 50,650 words. I'm a short story writer, not a novelist, so it was a challenge!"
Congratulations you two – we are a select trio!
My profile can be found at: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/215490
NaNoWriMo sends a certificate of achievement and if you donate to help their Young Writers Program Fund, which I did, they also send a thank you card and some amusing stickers. Even with the certificate, stickers, the thank you card, beating Chicago and New York, accolades from my family and friends, plus a roughly drafted half-novel manuscript, I find myself depressed.
They call it the "post-NaNo blues." This should be mentioned as a possible side effect of accomplishing a large writing goal.
This type of depression I had heard about before, but had never experienced. I want to drop all of my responsibilities, the car payments, the bank loan payments, the freelance work, even Inkwell Newswatch and the FWO. I want to concentrate on my manuscript, create a finished draft, pitch it, sell it, go on book tours, and I can't! At least not yet. Bummer.
So I've decided two things: One, when getting involved in NaNoWriMo or any large, self-imposed deadline/competition remember that there can be a downside to it. Two, in January or February I intend to have my own personal NaNoWriMo to finish the other half of my manuscript. Two thousand words per day for one month in the early part of the New Year.
Here are my personal tips for success:
- Get your family and friends to support your endeavour.
- Average 2,000 words/day (some days I wrote 100 other days 3,000).
- Allow your natural writing to emerge and ignore what you should do.
- Don't edit, it wastes way too much time.
- Take breaks, stretch, warm up, and cool down during each writing session.
- Avoid all distractions during a writing session (unless your house is on fire).
- Read and believe the weekly NaNoWriMo "pep talk" email they send.
- Finally, just do it – it is achievable.
One last note, it helped me to stay away from the NaNoWriMo chat rooms. It's easy to fall into the socializing trap because all that writing/chatting saps my writing energy.
In closing, a befitting quote from Chris Baty: "When you write for quantity instead of quality, you end up getting both. Also, it's a great excuse for not doing any dishes for a month."
Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org