“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass they slip away across the universe” – John Lennon
I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot this year.
For the uninitiated…what the blue hell is NaNoWriMo (and no, I can’t ever pronounce that right, just ask Pat Flewwelling who laughs every time I try, then effortlessly rolls it off her tongue)? Well, it’s not “Nanaimo Bar” month as I typically refer to it (though, thinking about it, that would be a great month, wouldn’t it?), no, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month…”thirty days and nights of literary abandon” according to the official website.
It’s actually a bit of a misnomer, as it’s more than national at this point. It was started in July of 1999 (yes, July instead of November) in the San Francisco Bay area and there were 21 participants. By 2010, that number had grown to 200,530 participants (and, I’m guessing, not all from the San Francisco Bay area).
What is NaNoWriMo? Well, from the website, it states:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
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. To build without tearing down.
These are the things I like about the whole process.
- You don’t really have time to think. 50K words in a month is about 1700 words (or about 7 pages) a day, every day of the week, for a full month. So there’s no agonizing over things, there’s no going back and editing what you’ve written before moving on. There’s just moving on.
- You don’t have time to “fall out of love” with what you’re writing. Good or bad, it’s your project for the month. And it’s only a month, so if it does suck, well, there’s always December.
- It makes you come in with very few expectations. Like they say, this approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks and write on the fly…and you will write a lot of crap. My favourite writing quote comes from Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.” He’s right. But I think this is a typical excuse for most beginning writers…”I tried to write it, but it was just awful.” Okay, let it be awful.
- It gets you in a habit. If you can pound out 7 pages a day, you could, in theory, pound out about six rough drafts in a year. Now you’re entering Stephen King output, baby! In all seriousness, if you can find a rhythm, get into a habit and not obsess over what has come before, you’re in a good place to make some decent progress with your writing projects.
I was leery about starting this blog back in May. I’d tried to maintain another blog and it was open for a couple of years and I think I may have done 12 blogs in total? Something like that.
So, even as I was writing my first blog, there was a voice in the back of my head that kept saying, “You bombed at this once, what makes you think you’ll do any better this time?”
And yet, here I am, six months later and almost 80 blogs under my belt. I’ve found the time to write them, I’ve found the time to comment back to the commenters, I haven’t run out of ideas and I’ve found out it can be fun.
So can any writing project if you don’t take it too seriously. Have fun with it. Lower your expectations. Decide to be okay with writing crap occasionally.
That’s what NaNoWriMo’s all about.
Let me know if you’re participating. I’ll be posting my progress throughout the month. Hopefully you will too.