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Hi! I’m Anjanette Fennell, and I’m wanting to talk to you today about a little something called NaNoWriMo.
Now NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is a writerly challenge that undertakes to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Now both experienced writers and those who are just new to the game try this challenge out every year, and I wanted to talk today about the three reasons that I think NaNoWriMo rocks…and the three reasons I think it sucks.
Let’s get started with the reasons it rocks…
1 – It forces you into a daily writing practice.
Now whether you’re a beginning writer, or somebody who’s been writing for awhile but has maybe let other things at the top of the priority list, this process is really great for forcing you to sit down and actually write out your words. The daily target is actually 1,667 words and any writer will tell you that that can be a bit of a challenge in and of itself, especially if things aren’t flowing. So getting yourself into that habit every day of sitting and actually getting words on the page or on the screen as it were, is a really, really great thing.
2 – It supports forward only movement.
By that I mean no fixing typos. No restructuring sentences. You don’t go back and fix anything, even if it’s horrendous, you simply write forward. That is something that I have all of the writers that I work with one-and-one and in my group coaching really get used to. It is so, so important for our first draft to not get stuck in the editorial mindset. To simply move forward. You will edit this manuscript again; don’t waste your time doing it now.
3 – It allows you to explore some story ideas without judgement.
Again, the whole concept around it is to just free yourself to the process, and get used to writing every day, and really just take off.
Now for the reasons it sucks…
1- It is really tough to pivot when you have lost interest in your topic.
If you come up with a story idea and a few days in or God help you a week or two weeks in you have lost all interest in your topic? You’re going to have a really hard time getting down the 1,667 words a day, I guarantee you.
2 – 50,000 words are not actually a (full length) novel.
Now a standard adult novel in traditional publishing terms, is anywhere between 80,000 and 100,00. A few more or a few less. In YA, you might be able to get away with sort of 60,000 words up to 65,000-70,000 words. And then of course fewer words if you were writing Junior Fiction. But let’s get real here, most experienced authors will tell you that when they go through their first edit, they cut a significant portion of their words. So if you’re cutting away from 50,000, you really don’t have a novel on your hands. However, you do have a really great start.
3 – The focus is on the word count and not the story.
And let me be really clear with you, story is key. It’s all about the story. If you don’t have a beginning, a middle and an end then you don’t have a story. You’ve got a really great opening scene, or you’ve got a lovely happy ending. But you haven’t got a story, and that’s not going to carry your reader from the beginning of your writing until the end.
However, you can totally make NaNoWriMo work for you, and here’s how…
First of all, story map. Don’t wait until the first of November to start prepping yourself. And this isn’t cheating! The challenge is to write the content for your novel from the 1st of November to the 30th. But prep is not included in that, and so I highly recommend you do that prep. Now if you don’t know how to write a story map, there are I am sure lots of free resources online otherwise send me an email and I will send you to someone who can definitely help give you a boost with that for very, very little money if you’re very serious about it. It is worth it. It is worth it if you want to make this month’s worth of writing count.
The other thing is I’d really love for you to release judgement and enjoy the process. Now while you can spend your time and get serious about the story map, and I still recommend that, on the other side of it it’s really important not to make this something where you think you’re going to bust through a tape at the end of the month. It would be great to get your 50,000 words or more if you’re really, really in the flow. But the way to get into the flow is to release yourself to the process of words on the page and writing forward, like I said at the beginning.
The other thing is I would really love for you to think about your story away from your desk. That is maximizing your story time. It is a truth that writers don’t just write their story when they’re sitting down in front of their computer, or old-school at the typewriter or with their notebook and their pen. They are writing their story and honing their story as they’re walking around during the day; at the park, washing dishes, getting groceries, whatever it is. Do that too. Let your story in for that whole month and I guarantee you, you will be rich with content to write during the times that you’re sitting in front of your computer.
And the last thing is, make it a fun way to actually add to your writerly toolkit. Don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s what the ‘don’t edit this’ is all about. Really get used to what works for you when you’re writing and enjoy it, really get into it. That’s the fun of being a writer. If you aren’t liking it while you’re doing it, I say don’t do it at all.
But all that said, NaNoWriMo is a great way for you to really jump on board and give yourself a big, big challenge. And you know what? I have actually met more than one author who has gone on to finish an entire novel that started as a NaNoWriMo project.
So if you have any questions as always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org otherwise, I look forward to seeing you next time. Bye.