NaNoWriMo - It's Not Just About the Word Count!
Last fall I needed a kick in the writing pants, so I took advantage of a phenomenon that has been building for some time now, a phenomenon that perfectly displays what the power of positive thinking and a positive community can accomplish. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, or in the common lingo, NaNoWriMo.
I’d heard about this event several years ago when my local paper wrote up a small blurb about this bizarre thing writers all over country (and the world, it turns out) were doing. In the month of November (Ack – that’s dum da dum dum…. Holiday season!) writers were challenging themselves to write fifty thousand words. Quick calculation, in Courier New, 12 point, that’s… where is that darn calculator… let’s see, tap, tap, tap – approximately 200 manuscript pages. In a month?!
Madam IE, my internal editor, coughed. Loudly. When she had my attention she tapped on my shoulder and leaned in close to whisper in my ear. “You can’t write fifty thousand words in a month. Oh, those silly, silly amateurs. Don’t they know it takes Time to create Art?” Yes, my internal editor is a bit of a snob, and that’s putting it nicely.
So I continued to plod along, perfecting my craft, perfecting my story, perfecting my prose, perfecting… well, you get the idea. I perfected, but I didn’t accomplish a whole lot and if I’m honest – hush Madam IE, I can be honest with these folks! – I didn’t perfect much either.
Well now it’s last October. Summer was over and the time had come for me to get some writing accomplished. Hmm, there’s that NaNooNaNoo thing I hear people talking about again. Let me go check out that web site (a perfect excuse not to write). These people sound like they are excited about writing like maniacs for a whole month (during Holiday Season!). Some are young, yes, but some are… my age. Some are older. Many are in college, but some have toddlers at home, spouses in the military, teenagers, ailing parents. Hmm… they all have busy lives. Just like me. Maybe I should try this. Shhh, Madam IE. Scat! I flick her off my shoulder and she gets caught up in the corner of my office, tangled in the cobwebs that some sneaky spider has spun there. For once my lack of housekeeping interest is going to pay off. With Madame IE up there tangled and busy, I quickly set up an account, commit myself quite publicly to participating in this crazy endeavor, then start scouring the regional boards at the NaNo site to find some other crazy people locally to help me meet this terrifying goal.
You may be asking if I met that fifty thousand words in the month of November goal. Go ahead, ask, I’ll wait. What? Oh, well, no, I didn’t meet that goal, but I did write twenty-six thousand words which is considerably more than I’ve written in that kind of time frame before. And you know what? Even though I didn’t make the stated goal, I ended up with a lot of good material that I am now crafting into a story. I also ended up learning a lot of things about myself as a writer that are making it easier to keep up the writing momentum even after the mayhem and madness at NaNoWriMo has been set aside until next fall.
Thinking that perhaps I wasn’t the only one who had learned something about myself as a writer from this experience, I asked a few other participants if they would share what they learned. I’ve combined their answers with a few of my own to come up with a baker’s dozen of reasons why you, too, might want to consider joining us in NaNoWriMo come next November.
Don’t get me wrong, word count is great, but there is so much more than just word count in the NaNoWriMo experience. Don’t you want to join in the fun next November?
Thanks to Annette Couch-Jareb, Gail Reinhart, Pamela Roller and Michele Armstrong for sharing their National Novel Writing Month experiences with me. For more information about NaNoWriMo go to: www.NaNoWriMo.org
Updated May 13, 2009