It's that time of year when author forums everywhere, including ALLi's, are buzzing with excited chatter about NaNoWriMo. In this post, I'll explain the concept, outline the benefits, and point you in the direction of our extensive Author Advice Centre archive of previous posts about different aspects of this special annual writing event.
What is NaNoWriMo Anyway?
- Short answer: National Novel Writing Month, designated as November
- Long answer: a month-long campaign fuelled by this super website on which aspiring writers share their progress towards a 50K-in-a-month writing goal
NaNoWriMo is a not-for-profit organisation set up to help authors everywhere increase their productivity and say goodbye to writer's block for good. (Which, many argue, doesn't really exist anyway – but that's another story!)
Just sign up for a free account, add a few personal details, and start writing however you prefer. Each day you log into the account to add your word count for the day, and you're rewarded with a clear graph of your progress and handy motivational details such as badges for various achievements along the way and the opportunity to compare notes with “buddies” that you've chosen.
If you prefer, you can do the whole thing under a pseudonym and not get involved with the virtual socialising (there are some real-life meetup groups too). Just pick what makes you tick. Then, assuming you meet your target, you're awarded “Winner” status – and we all love to win something, don't we?
Why 50K Words? – That's Not A Novel!
- 50K words = 1666.6′ words per day
- typical word count of a serious novel =80K
- 60K for something lighter like a cosy mystery
The idea with NaNo is that you just open your heart and churn out a first draft, non-stop, without looking back or editing. You're not meant to engage the critical part of your brain, just the creative side. It's understood that you'll go back to edit your draft after November ends. Most editing processes involve adding more words rather than taking them down.
On the other hand, if your post-November edit shrinks your ms, all is not lost – you may have just got yourself a novella there! Handy to use as a sample of your work to attract readers to your other books as part of your marketing process.
Just How Hard Is It?
50K in a month might sound daunting, but provided you set aside a reasonable chunk of time each day, you can do it without too much trauma.
Eat the elephant a bite at a time, as the old saying goes.
Personally, I like writing in whole chapters rather than clock-watching my word counter, and that works well for me as the chapters of my (not yet published) cosy mystery novels work out at around 2k each.
Why I'm Hooked
This will be the third November in a row that I've done NaNoWriMo, and so far I've produced the bones of two first drafts of two different novels. I've only just finished putting the meat on the bones of the last year's, after about a zillion edits, but I'm planning to publish the resulting novel, Best Murder in Show, first in a seven-book Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, early 2017. This year's NaNo project will be its sequel: Trick or Murder. And the very first one I did provided what is now going be number 6 in the series, Murder Your Darlings. Three NaNos = three novels – and without it, I might still have none. I have to say, NaNoWriMo has me hooked.
Not convinced yet? Check out these great posts by ALLi authors sharing their experience of NaNoWriMo:
#Authors - what is @NaNoWriMo & why should you do it? Answers from writing addicts here! - by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet