Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Newbie

By Leslie D. Soule
This November went by so fast. Usually it tends to be the kind of month that drags on tediously, until Thanksgiving. But this year, things have been a bit different. This year, I signed up to participate in the annual phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. This free event poses the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in a single month. Now, you published authors out there know that 60,000 words is standard novel length, but I think the point of this event is not to have your manuscript entirely sparkling by the end. Rather, the challenge is posed in order to get you to do most of the writing involved in the allotted timeframe. I find that in the editing period after you clean up a rough draft, 10,000 words comes fairly easily anyway, to flesh things out.
So here’s how it went for me. Well, it was mid-month by the time I decided that I wanted to participate, which meant that I would be really behind. I signed up on the website (www.nanowrimo.org) on the 13th. By this time, I should have been at 21,658 words in word count, like everyone else. Fortunately, I did have a partial novel that I could dust off and build from. It was at 17k in word count, which meant that I was 4,000 words behind – it was still a lot, but not nearly the colossal challenge that nearly 22k would have been.
Every day of the challenge, the goal is to write 1,666 words in order to finish your manuscript on time. I saw one blog writer refer to the number as “the devil’s vintage” and that seems to help me remember. I caught up gradually to where I needed to be, exceeding the 1,666 word count goal for a couple of days, and by day 15 of the challenge, I was right where I needed to be.
Anyway, I got through NaNoWriMo this year, and it was a lot of work, but I survived, gaining access to the winner screen, and the whole thing was a blast. One thing that helped was that I’d seen others posting inspirational images for the topics they’d write on in a given day, on Pinterest. For example, one day I scoured Pinterest for an image of a dragon, posted it to my NaNoWriMo board, and wrote about dragon hunting that day. I carried a notebook with me wherever I went. I researched things and asked myself questions. How hard is it to forage in the woods in winter? Traditionally, what are the differences between dragons and wyverns? What were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon like? Research should be fun, and so should the writing be, so that you avoid burnout.

I fully intend on participating next year. I’m already planning out what I’ll put in my NaNoWriMo 2014 survival kit: a coffee mug, hot chocolate, tea, coffee, notebooks, the rollerball pens from the dollar store that are my weakness, cough syrup, slippers and fingerless gloves. At any rate, I hope you’ll consider participating. I certainly found it to be a memorable experience. 


kipha said...

Fabulously stated. Glad you had a blast in your first NaNoWriMo. Though I didn't participate this year I'm looking forward to seeing you next year!

Leslie Soule said...

Thanks! See you there!!!