Saturday, October 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Should You? Why and How

Welcome to my next 3-part series! The topic this time is NaNoWriMo. I’ll be blogging this month about getting ready beforehand, offering go-getter advice during the event in November, and I’ll wrap up with a post-NaNo blog in December.

**What the Blazin' Heck is NaNoWriMo?**

This mnemonic—and time of year—is familiar to many who have been around the writing community for a while. In short, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an event that has been going on every November since 1999. The goal: write a novel (or 50k words of one) in 30 days during the month of November. Impossible, you say? Preposterous? Nay, says I. NaNoWriMo reported that close to twenty percent of its participants reached the 50k goal in 2009. (Data for last year was unavailable as of this writing.) This year will mark my sixth consecutive NaNoWriMo, and, I hope, my sixth consecutive “win”.

**What’s the Point? (Or, “I Write All Year.”)**

A lot of writers feel that the hype about NaNo is vastly overblown. After all, fiction writing takes place every day around the globe. Why make a special event out of it? Well, here are a half dozen advantages I have discovered about climbing aboard the NaNo bandwagon.

1. Many of Us Write Well to Goals.
Sure, you can set a word count goal anytime, but an official, national (really, global) challenge to make 1667 words per day for 30 days can really jump start your next project.

2. The Speed Challenge Can Improve Your Productivity
Having the incentive to pump out a daily word count can teach you a great deal about streamlining your first draft process. That skill won't end with NaNo--it will stay with you into future projects. The faster you write, the faster you will hopefully get another title available for the market.

Some “Nay-NoWriMo” critics argue that writing a fast novel results in a crap novel. That might be true for a few who pump out whatever just to drive up their word count, but for the rest of us, that extra push does nothing more than get a first draft out of our brains and onto (virtual?) paper. Who cares if it isn’t perfect—it’s a rough draft! That’s what editing is for. If your first drafts consistently take longer than 1-2 months to write, NaNo can transform your life. Every year that I participate, that push brushes up my drafting skills for the coming year’s projects—and I get an extra book done in the process. What’s not to love?

3. Write-ins and Community Can Offer Friendships and Networking
Not only does the NaNo site feature regional and worldwide forums in order to socialize with others bold enough to undertake this ambitious task, but there are live write-ins, kick-off parties, “we survived” after-parties, and the like that can allow you to meet other like-mindeds in your area. Also, Twitter has a #NaNoWriMo hashtag that goes like gangbusters as people share their questions, ups and downs, and tips throughout the challenge. You might well meet folks who could wind up as crit partners, friends, or networking associates long after November has passed.

4. The “Official” Atmosphere Can Boost Your Writing
It’s hard to explain the feeling of being immersed in an event taking place simultaneously, yet while you’re alone at your desk (when not at the write-ins). It’s a fun time not entirely unlike the atmosphere of a writing convention, where everyone involved is focused on a single purpose for the month. There’s nothing quite like it all the rest of a writer’s year, and that camaraderie can help push you through that challenge and help you get that novel finished by November 30.

5. NaNo Participation Makes for Interesting Marketing Buzz
Granted, tons of writers post the “I’m doing NaNo” stuff on their blogs, sites, and social nets. Generate pre-buzz about your latest book by posting word counters and progress updates. Or get more creative and host write-ins or put our local press releases about the event.

I do something a bit different...I host a “Best NaNoWriMo Line Written” contest each year. People submit their favorite sentences, and I pick winners weekly and at the end. If you’re interested in this, NaNoMail me (see my info below in the how to section) at the NaNo site with Contest News in the message, and I’ll send you the official thread link when it goes up.

6. Even if you lose, you win!
Say you sign up for the challenge, write for a week or two, then something happens. Thanksgiving rolls around, you catch a nasty cold, or Aunt Bessie decides to come for an unexpected two-week visit. You stop writing, and November 30 comes and goes with your novel “only” 10, 20, or 30k complete. That’s word count toward that book that doesn’t end when November does. You’ll be that much more ahead when you do get around to finishing. November is going to pass whether or not you sign up, but why not give NaNo a shot and invest that scheduled time into your writing career?
In a nutshell, I highly recommend NaNoWriMo for anyone who wants to try their hand at writing a novel or improve their drafting productivity.

**Okay, I’m In! How Do I Do It?**

Get thee hence to the official NaNo site: and read the official rules, then sign up. It’s free! From there, you can establish a profile, add friends, and post in the forums. My NaNo user name is lisalogan (an old pen name I still use occasionally) for anyone who wants to add me or ask about the contest. Then come November 1 (some say midnight on Halloween night), jump in and start writing! Have fun with it and I’ll check back in on November 15th with my next blog to see how it’s going.

Any NaNo success or other stories? I’d love to hear your comments.


Jennifer Lowery (Kamptner) said...

I have never done NaNo. Too scared,lol! I'm doing BIAM right now and that's tough enough. Would love to hear success stories with NaNo too. Great post.

J.Rose Allister said...

Ooh, think about it this year, Jennifer! There's nothing to fear, since you're really only competing with yourself. And even if you only get just a portion written, you're on the way to your next book. So it's a win-win!

My success story is that all five of my past NaNo "wins" are now in publication, and my drafting time has dropped overall from an average of 9 months down to weeks. So it's been a great push for my career!