Ride the Wave of Creativity with National Novel Writing Month

By: Maureen Davey Last Updated: November 8, 2012

Blank book Do you have the idea for a novel burning inside you, but you've never had the chance to sit down and write it? Consider joining thousands of people across in the globe in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! Branded as "Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon," the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel of 50,000 words minimum in thirty days or less.

It may sound daunting, but breaking down the word count helps alleviate some stress - 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1,667 words a day. It's a fast pace, but if you plan your time, it's more doable than you might think.

I love writing, but I'm one of the many who has trouble getting started, and even more trouble completing a full piece. I have at least 50 notes to myself of plot or character ideas, but hardly any have had the first few chapters written, much less the rest of a piece. I couldn't tune out that editor in my head - you know the one, who expects your fingers to turn out polished, professional prose from the moment you sit down to write. That's what you read in your favorite books, and your brain expects it (wrongly) to come out that way on the first try. Tuning out that voice can be difficult, and it takes practice.

But that's the beauty of NaNoWriMo - the point is to write. You can start with an outline of your story (does not count towards your total) or fly by the seat of your pants and make up characters as you go along. There are no points for grammar, spelling, and good or bad ideas. The point is simply to explore ideas and to move forward.

You may write a couple of chapters and think they're terrible - but you keep going. Don't like that a certain character had an attitude in chapter two? Note it for rewrites and then change her attitude in chapter four. Explore your ideas, but keep moving forward. This is a first draft - continuity is not required. For those like me who get tripped up by their own internal critic, it's a great exercise in cutting yourself some slack and practicing what you've always wanted to actually do - the writing.

The best part of NaNoWriMo though, in my opinion, is the community support. There are hundreds of thousands of people online, whom you've never met, who are attempting the same goal and going through the same struggles that you are. Lots of organizations, including NaNoWriMo.org itself, send out daily or weekly notes of encouragement, some from published authors who have been exactly where you are. Maybe you've been teased at some point for wanting to publish a novel some day (I have), or maybe you just haven't received the kind of encouragement you were hoping for. Or maybe you just haven't had the confidence in yourself that you could get there. There's an entire community of fellow writers who are struggling along with you and want to help you get there.

NaNoWriMo also has hundreds of volunteers who organize local writing groups for the month of November. It's a great way to meet new people who also enjoy writing and take encouragement from each other.

All right, here's the part I know you've been wondering about - November has already started. If you wanted to do NaNoWriMo, aren't you already behind? Maybe a bit, but here's the thing - it's early enough in the month of November that if you wanted to start very soon, you could still make it happen. Your daily word count would average around 2,000 - again, a fast pace, but not undoable. It also doesn't have to work out evenly - I tend to do somewhere between 700 and 1,500 on week days and then as many as 3,000 on weekend days since weekends are better for me. A few hundred in the morning, a few hundred on your lunch break, more in the evening, or however you need to space it, make it work with your schedule.

Even if you feel that that word count is too strenuous, you can still pick word count goal and ride the wave of creativity - there are many people who give themselves a goal of 500 words or 1,000 words a day, and try to stick with it every day for the month. That's great! The goal is to not just to talk about a great creative idea, but to do it - to practice and improve and make your creative ideas a reality. Use the encouragement and motivation being freely given all through the month of November to do something fun for yourself. Especially as winter comes and the days get shorter and darker, it's great to have that creative outlet, to have a project to design and explore.

Even if you don't make it to 50,000 words in a month, let's say you make it to 25,000 - that's still great. You've produced something to work with, something you can keep working on for the future. Which is better - a fantastic book that never gets written, or a crappy book that does.? Which one has more opportunity? Which one can you take feelings accomplishment and pride from, which one gives you the chance to improve your skills? It might seem strange - we're not generally encouraged to do something poorly. And it's not that I want to encourage poor writing - I want to encourage writing, at any skill level. There's always room to grow and improve, to learn new skills or test out new ideas.

So what do you think? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo, or working on any kind of creative piece and riding the wave of creativity? Let me know in the comments!

Great NaNoWriMo/Motivational Links

  • NaNoWriMo.org - The official site of NaNoWriMo. Sign up to receive NaNo news, words of encouragement from published authors, and news on local NaNo write-ins.
  • NaNo Word Sprints - A Twitter account run by the NaNo team that gives you timed writing sessions and writing prompts for if you're feeling stuck!
  • YA Highway's The Carpool Lane - This site is run by a collective of Young Adult authors. Even if you're not writing in the YA genre, the tips are great!
  • Google Plus #nanowrimo posts
  • Another great source of writing tips/motivation may be your favorite authors. Many authors who write today have blogs or social media accounts where they talk about their work or tips they've learned along the way. Search for them online, and you might be surprised at what you find!
  • There are tons of other resources out there - don't hesitate to hop on Google, Twitter, YouTube, and more to see what NaNo- and creativity-related things you find!

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