Have your heard about National Novel Writing Month? Have you tried it?
NaNoWriMo challenges you to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November — pacing at around 1,666 words per day.
I’ve attempted two rounds:
Last November, I didn’t sign up on the http://nanowrimo.org website, but I kept track of my word count and tweeted out my progress. Why was I too chicken to sign up? I think I told myself that filling out even one form would take away from my writing time. And I just wanted to try finishing a story in a month — no commitment, no guilt.
I completed my story by the end of November (and edited it throughout December). I had a great time exploring this side episode in the epic fantasy universe my friend Carol and I have been working on for years (more on that later). At a little over 20,000 words, my little holiday themed tale wasn’t a word count winner, but I was very happy with the result. Still am.
In July, I tried using Camp NaNoWriMo to jump-start a YA science fiction novel I have been thinking about for a while. This time, I did sign up. The http://campnanowrimo.org site is user friendly, and I like the word count tracking. I liked the idea of “cabins,” but in reality couldn’t keep up with the chats. I stalled halfway through the month, and only completed 21,917 words of the novel — barely getting the characters out of Act I. Something wasn’t right in the story, and I couldn’t move forward until I figured out what. I’m still trying to figure it out.
There’s a big difference between the first and second experience. Last November, I didn’t meet the 50,000-word goal, but I finished something significant (for me). In July, I ended up abandoning my story. No word goal met (I had set 50,000 for myself) and nothing completed.
November felt good.
July felt pretty awful.
And to be perfectly honest, both times I was also writing other things. I have two different series that I am working on with two different writing partners. That work always comes first.
NaNoWriMo is just for me. A side job, maybe. But I’ve learned that I’m a better writing partner when I’m working on something else on my own — makes me less argumentative.
And here’s what I learned from my two NaNoWriMo experiences: I am an outliner. I am a very detailed outliner. The difference between the November story and the July story was how prepared I was going in. The July attempt stalled because I only had a detailed outline to the end of Act I, then I thought I could wing it . . . I couldn’t.
So here we are in October, and I’ve started peeking at the National Novel Writing Month website again. To my delight, I noticed a section on NaNoWriMo prep — http://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep and a free webinar run by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of NaNoWriMo, and featuring freelance editor Michael Rowley and author Darynda Jones.
I really appreciated Grant and Michael sharing so much great information, but I found Darynda particularly inspiring. She’s described her very detailed outlining method and even offered to email a sample to any viewer who expressed interest. So generous! I contacted her right away, and she sent three outline samples back in a matter of minutes. Shout out to Darynda Jones, my NaNoWriMo prep hero! http://www.daryndajones.com
Needless to say, I’ve signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo again. But this time I am going to be as prepared as I can be. It’s only halfway through October, and I feel I have time to get my next NaNoWriMo project ready — as long as I pick my project and soon.
I am torn between returning to the science fiction story, working on a short novel in the epic fantasy world, or telling the background story of a pivotal character in The Werewolf Whisperer series. Maybe I should roll some dice.
The point is — I’m going all in. My mission: complete a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 on November 30. I appreciate the support NaNoWriMo is offering, and I will be tweeting out my word counts.