I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’s ever wished they could write a novel. I mean — how awesome would that be? I’ve read at least half a dozen how-to-write books, countless articles online, and I’ve even started a few little stories here and there. It doesn’t sound like it should be too hard, but writing an actual, full-blown novel is a LOT of work. It takes absolute dedication of heart and soul, and quite a bit of time management. But it doesn’t have to be a lonely fight, or a tedious one. Every November thousands of amateur and published authors alike come together to complete this seemingly impossible goal:
Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
The rules are simple: Write 50,000 words. In 30 days. The ‘competition’ runs on the honor system, and ‘cheating’ at word count (via really long names repeated constantly, using “do not” instead of “don’t”, and the like) is actually, for many, part of the fun and tradition. The main goal of the competition is not to write something perfect or even well written. No one expects publishable pieces here, and you don’t even have to share it if you’re just too embarrassed. The goal is to just sit down and write a lot of words. It’s good training, since the worst way to halt a budding novel in its tracks is by thinking about writing instead of just biting the bullet and starting. Plot and quality are totally optional. (50k, for a point of reference, is about the length of such formidable novels as Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men.)
However, part of what makes participating in NaNoWriMo so much better than writing 50,000 words whenever is the community aspect of the event. Forums are set up for everything from genres to word-count shoutouts to wild midnight candy-fueled success stories. No matter how far behind you fall in the word-count goal (on average, 1667 words a day is the target) there will always be active threads of fellow writers in exactly the same position, ready to offer moral support and ALL CAPS MANTRAS OF DETERMINATION AND CAMARADERIE.
And at the end of the grueling journey, after days of sleep deprivation and caffeine poisoning and wrist-aches and writer’s block and five different ignored essays coming due, a wonderful thing happens: You finish a novel. There is no physical prize, nothing more than a printable certificate. But come on. You wrote a novel in a month. I think that’s an accomplishment to be proud of.
Check out the guide book written by the founder of NaNoWriMo Chris Baty, No Plot? No Problem!
And here’s an amusing, and quite useful, book on how NOT to write your novel.
Emma, Teen Advisory Group