Yes, November is that month—the one where writers worldwide commit to penning a 50,000-word novel in one month. A daunting task indeed!
But is doing so worth it? Does it teach you anything? Get you any closer to reaching your writing goals?
Do you want to know a secret? NaNoWriMo began as a stunt, with a small group of writer friends. It’s since grown into a cottage industry, as hundreds of thousands of writers participate. Last year, nearly 120,000 people entered the contest (not to mention, the host of folks who took the challenge but didn’t officially enter). To “win,” you simply have to the meet the word-count goal—no matter how awful the writing. Last year, 21,683 such writers became “winners.”
As the website says: “Make no mistake, you will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create.”
Seriously, if that’s the case, what good will it do?
Boiled down to its essence, what the idea does is to not only get you writing, but gives complete and entire free rein to your creativity.
Funny thing, that creativity. So often we woo the muse, bow to her, cajole her, pray that she stays. And often, in our writing worlds, she seems to fly to Brazil for the season.
One failsafe way exists to keep her whispering into your ear: practice your craft.
And committing to a goal of writing, just writing, of ignoring those naysaying voices in your head while you chase your story and characters, well, that just keeps the finicky muse flying along.
I talk all the time about revisions—about book editing, tearing a manuscript down to its essence and building it back up. Disseminating what’s working with characters and what’s not, and why. About story creation and structure and how to fix the issues.
Because, of course, that’s what I do 🙂
First and foremost, however, we have to produce that story and people on the page. And so yes, in writing 50,000 words in a month, you’ll have a lot of crap. You’ll make a lot of mistakes
But you’ll also have the jewel of the story and people, buried perhaps, but there.
This is something I talk with my writers about every single day—that in a first draft especially, the point is to just write. Let go. Know that you may end up losing 40,000 of those words. And that’s a perfectly fine thing.
The good news is, in getting the novel going, you’re deep into the game.
And no matter how off track you get, we can “fix” any of the issues in revision.
Because here’s the true secret to writing and publishing success:
The first version of your story doesn’t even count. It’s not even your first draft, so to speak. It’s an experiment, to teach you who your people are, and where they travel in this story.
You don’t need to know where they eventually end up either. Often we know this, right? But sometimes we’re following along to see where they take us, and what happens.
This is a fabulous thing!
It sounds simple, and it is. Because, again, from there you can actually craft a great book.
Does story structure matter? Absolutely.
Are characters who hold together, who grow and change and turn the plot mandatory? Absolutely.
But that’s what revision is for—restructuring, deepening, going back to the beginning and crafting the opening where it’s supposed to be, rather than 50 pages in.
So do it. Commit. Go to writing and let that muse sing to you as your fingers fly along the keyboard. Take off all constraints (even the ones that say you’re a failure if you don’t reach the whole word count).
This is an experiment that yields massive results.
And makes you a better writer.
Which is the point, no?
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!