We’re 10 days away from the start of NaNoWriMo 2012. Are you taking part? Is it something you do regularly? I’m not taking part ‘officially’ – as in, I’m not signing up on the site or anything like that. But I am doing an unofficial version with two other writers on Twitter. We’re calling it #NaNoTriMo because there’s three of us checking in with each other. Genius, right? *g* A couple of us are starting a bit later, too – maybe around Nov 5th. I think we’re all still aiming to write 50,000 words in the month of November, but without the additional pressure and admin of being an official participant. I prefer it that way, to be honest.
I have a long(ish) and sketchy relationship with NaNoWriMo. Trust me when I tell you that I am not an expert. At all. In fact, I have never actually ‘won’ (to use their term for completing the 50K) while officially signed up. Want to know more? Of course you do!
Here’s my personal track record, broken down for each year since I first tried the challenge (short version: things started well, but went very quickly downhill after that):
2007 = My first ever attempt. Agreed to do an unofficial version of it with two friends. We aimed for 30K and blogged our progress. I ended up writing the first 56,000 words of a novel that eventually became my first ever published novel* over 3 years later. Now I sort of wish I’d signed up so I could be one of the NaNoWriMo success stories!
2008 = By this point in time, the 2007 project had been revised, rewritten and revised some more. It still hadn’t sold to any publishers (although it did help me to find an agent), so… all inspired… I signed up properly for NaNo for the first time and……. dropped out about a week in!
2009 = The 2007 project had sold! Woo! So… all inspired… I decided to learn from 2008’s ‘failure’ (I don’t like that word, really) and not sign up on the NaNo site. This time I would keep it simple and write quietly by myself, trying for the 50K on my own. Result? Crashed and burned, baby.
2010 = Didn’t bother with it at all. By now, I hate NaNo and all it stands for. Am in denial that The Iron Witch (soon to be published in February 2011) ever started as an unofficial NaNoWriMo book.
2011 = Randomly decide that maybe NaNo doesn’t suck after all. Sign up officially on the site, full of excitement and positive energy. Write sort of consistently through a very difficult personal time. Final word count: 28,000 (give or take).
2012 = Not signing up this time, but I just can’t let the damn thing go! What’s wrong with me? I think I just want to prove I can do it again, and that 2007 wasn’t a fluke. I’ll be writing a big chunk of words to complete a book that is partially written, so technically I can’t take part officially even if I wanted to.
Here’s the thing about this particular writing ‘challenge’… You really do have to focus on just getting that first draft OUT. Start at the beginning of the story, and write all the way through until you get as close to the end as possible. Or, you could try writing the scenes that you feel most excited about – even if it means writing them out of order. Either way, the words will get written – I know writers who use both methods.
With a total word goal of 50,000, you may not actually finish a complete draft. That’s okay. Just get as much down on the page as you can. No matter how tempted you are to go back and edit; no matter how badly you feel the urge to re-read what you’ve written and fix things, this is the one time where it’s not always the best thing. I’m not saying this is the ‘right’ way to write. Absolutely not! The right way is the way that works for you. But most people trying this challenge will encourage you to keep moving forward. Don’t look back.
Eventually, the end of November will come. It really will, trust me. When you’re about halfway through you won’t believe The End will ever get here and you’ll probably feel like stabbing yourself repeatedly in the eye with your pen. That’s okay! (Well, not the stabbing part…) You’ll get through this, I promise, because time will move on and each day will pass… and before you know it November 30th will be upon you and you’ll be scrambling to write just a few more measly words, watching the clock as it inexorably ticks toward midnight on the first day of December.
Ultimately, it may be that something like NaNo isn’t for you because you’re just not the kind of writer who can bang out a SFD** without worrying about it too much. Keeping the Internal Editor at bay is
impossible hard at the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Really, when you think about it (and I’d advise not thinking about it too hard), the whole NaNoWriMo deal is batshit crazy. But that’s half the fun! Who doesn’t like a silly writing challenge? And let’s face it, it’s not as crazy as the 3-Day Novel Contest. Hmm… Maybe we should all try that next year…
So, what about you – do you NaNo?