If you’ve never tried Nanowrimo, I highly recommend it. It’s basically a month when writers all over the world each write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a great exercise in self discipline, plotting, discovery writing, and most of all, it’s a way to try out a story you’ve been thinking about to see if it has real potential.
I’ve done Nanowrimo four years in a row now, and only once did I not win (you win by reaching 50,000 words before the new month starts), and I blame the fact that my baby came in the middle of the month. But I still finished my novel the next month, so the exercise was worthwhile.
If you’re a crazy plotter, you’re allowed to totally plot out your story before the month starts, but the actual text used in the novel has to be written within the month time.
Nanowrimo is in November.
But lest that seem far away, I just learned about Camp Nanowrimo. It’s Nanowrimo in July. Brilliant! Another opportunity to write a novel in a month. If you’re tempted to say, “But my story’s not ready yet, I haven’t worked out the details or story yet,” let me tell you my story about first discovering Nanowrimo.
On November 1, 2009, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.
Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”
Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Though I’d never published any fiction, I’d started a few things.
Then my fingers started to itch.
“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”
But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.
Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.
So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, but every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.
No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes dialogue. On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.
Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.
It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.
As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I’d come up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.
But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.
I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.
With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.
Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.
What on earth was I thinking?!
But I was going to do it.
So how was it?
It was A BLAST!!!
I truly loved it. I had no idea writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written.
Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but for Nano month I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting occasionally distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.
If you love writing, you’ll love doing Nanowrimo. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Camp Nanowrimo starts in four days. Just suck it up and do it.
Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.
His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!
Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.
So far, Chas has 4 albums out:
Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.