NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is an annual write-a-thon-fest which takes place in November. You sign up to the site and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. There are various incentives. For starters, just having someone acknowledge that you’ve won, i.e. completed fifty thousand words in thirty days, is a huge boost to your writing confidence, but also you can buddy-up with other NaNo writers if you wish and exchange encouragement. Also, depending on your location, there are sometimes real world events, café meetings etc. which you can attend for human support.
Let’s look at it realistically. The NaNo rules say you can prepare your material in advance, i.e. have an outline (or ideas scribbled on the back of an envelope, or tucked away in the dark side of your brain) in advance of the starter’s pistol cracking at midnight on 1st November, but the idea has always been that you started from scratch with zero wordcount. That’s great for people who have never tried to tackle a novel before, bowever…
Most of my friends are professional or semipro writers. We’re not writing our sole magnum opus. Some of us are still writing our first novel, others of us are writing yet another novel to add to our bibliography. Some novels are being written on spec, others are already under contract to a publisher. We’re mostly not waiting for the beginning of the month to write our first word, but it does help tremendously to have NaNoWriMo to pace ourselves alongside. It’s a bit like having a team race with a pace-setter/front-runner to draw everyone else along behind. At various points during the month that front runner may hand the baton on to someone else, but there’s always someone out there at the head of the wordcount stats.
I’ve done NaNo twice before, once in 2008 when I wrote 50,000 words on Winterwood which I later sold to DAW, and which is being published in February 2016. In 2012 I wrote 50,000 words of a middle-grade children’s book which I later decided I didn’t like much and consigned to a back burner, unfinished. This year I’m pacing myself alongside eight writer friends and some NaNo writer-buddies. I’m writing Silverwolf, a sequel to Winterwood. I already have close to 30,000 words, but obviously I’ll only be counting the words I write in November towards my 50,000 NaNoWriMo words.
Is it easy to write 50,000 words in a month? Theoretically it’s not difficult. If you can write 1,660 words per day, you can do it. That’s not a lot, but, of course, life gets in the way. The first year I did it I had a week taken out for a music conference I had already signed up to, so I did my 50,000 words in closer to three weeks. Dividing the word count by the number of days isn’t really helpful, though, because some days you’ll write nothing or almost nothing; maybe a scant three hundred words dragged out of your subconscious with a meat-hook, only to be deleted the following day. On other days you’ll bang out five thousand words or more without batting an eyelid.
NoNoWriMo is not for everyone, but if you want to test your dedication to your writing, November is an excellent time. Good luck.