NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

So, who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year? What’s NaNoWriMo, you ask? It’s National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place in November. You sign on as a participant, and after of 30 days of frantic wordsmithing, you’ll have written an entire novel. That’s the idea, anyway.

The folks at NaNoWriMo consider a novel to equal 50,000 words. If you’re writing genres like category romance and some types of science fiction/fantasy, this is approximately your target length. For lots of commercial/literary fiction, you’re a bit more than halfway there in terms of word count. But, whatever you’re writing, if you finish your 50,000 words by November 30th, you’ve won. What do you win? A web badge proclaiming you a winner, bragging rights, and a damn fine sense of accomplishment.

Why do it? There are a few great reasons to do it. One is one of those “just because you can” type things. There’s also accountability, thanks to the handy-dandy word count box you can update as you go along. When you join NaNo, you also get accountability and moral support. There are forums dedicated to every genre imaginable, and you can even join up with fellow writers locally, if the in-person thing is more your speed. And, it probably goes without saying that the best reason for participating is the awesome word count you’ll have at the end of the month.

The value of doing this is NOT the novel you’ll have at the end of the month. Trust me on this. You’ll have 50,000 words of something, but honey, it ain’t a novel ready for submission. And yes, this all sounds obvious in the extreme, but I’ve read on multiple agent blogs how much they dread the first week of December because people actually do this. Those 50,000 words you put down may be 49,000 of back story and 1,000 of story-story, but it’s getting you closer to the good stuff, and helping you know your characters and discover plot lines you may not have envisioned. Those 50,000 words also show that you can be disciplined, work on a deadline, and hold yourself accountable—essential characteristics of any professional author. Even if you don’t quite reach your goal, I bet you’ll write more during NaNoWriMo than you would have otherwise. If your inner writer needs a kick in the ass, NaNo’s a pretty big boot.

If you’re going to do it, you’ll need a general idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going. A basic plot framework and character sketches are good to develop ahead of time so you can hit the ground running once November 1st rolls around. And I do mean running. To make the goal, you need to write 1668 words each and every day in November—even on Thanksgiving, even when you’re staying at the in-laws sleeping on a cold, leaky air mattress, breathing in thirty years’ worth of stale cigarette smoke before getting up around last call to go join the Black Friday freak show. Yep, even then. If not, you’ll have like six thousand words to write when you finally get back, wheezing and bleary-eyed, to your own home and your own bed. Yeah, so maybe November doesn’t work for you? The organizers also run similar writing challenges in the summer months.

What about me? I did it in 2010, and it was a great experience, even though I didn’t make the goal (I topped out at 35K if you must know). I haven’t signed up yet, but I’m sorely tempted to try again. I do realize reaching 50,000 words is, well, a reach considering my work-slash-baby wrangling commitments, but I think my inertia-laden muse needs a big ole NaNoWriMo ass-kicking right about now. So, with a big, nervous gulp, I’m tossing my hat into the ring.

Who’s with me?

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