NaNoWriMo's Here Again

It's that time of year again. November looms and that means the alluring prospect of taking part in another NANOWRIMO beckons. What the hell is NANOWRIMO? I hear you cry. Well, pull up a seat, grab a coffee and let me tell you all about it, and why, if you fancy having a stab at writing a novel, you should take part.

What Is NaNoWriMo?

NANOWRIMO stands for National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo - and it is a fun project to do throughout the month of November, where thousands of writers (hopefuls, newbies and seasoned alike) pledge to write a novel of at least 50'000 words from 1 November to 30 November.

I came across this back in 2011, introduced to this weird experiment by Lucy. We had discussed writing competitions and such back then when we were both pursuing screenwriting careers, and I used my first attempt at writing what would then become a screenplay after I totally failed at the exercise.

Now let me just talk briefly about this aspect of NaNoWriMo. The idea is that you write a novel of 50'000 words - that's around 1'667 words a day, with the hopes that come the end you will have a finished first draft. That's the aim. That's the goal. There are no prizes for "winning", if by winning you mean achieving that word count.

You "win" NaNoWriMo by taking part. Even if you only get down 30'000 words, or 3'000 or even 300, when normally you haven't been able to get any down at all due to the fear of starting, or not finding the time, or whatever has gotten in the way between your mind and the page. You win by having the courage to give it a go, and for all of you who do this - well fucking done.

As someone who for many years shied away from sitting my ass down and just doing the work, finding excuses not to write, finally putting words down on the page and after 30 days of intense work having a finished novel (to me 50K is a novella, but that's a topic for another day) is a HUGE deal.

I''ve started several NaNoWriMo challenges over the years but always ended up getting drawn away from the fun for one reason or another - usually work. But now, as a full time author, I have decided to once again throw my typewriter in the ring and give this a go. In fact, I am challenging myself in a huge way by using this month of writing to try out a new process - more on that later.

So why should you give it a go?

It's bloody fun for a start. There's all sorts of badges you can win by updating every day, hitting certain word count goals, showing your a planner or pantster or other more esoteric things like helping a fellow Wrimo (yes, we even have nicknames).

What Will you Get Out Of It?

If you stick to your 1'667 words a day (that's around 5 pages of Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5 space) you'll have a 50'000 word novel done for a start, but you'll get so much more than that. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing you said you were going to do something, and then actually did it. No bullshit, this is a big thing. After spending a lot of time (and I mean fucking years) of talking about what I was going to write, it took something as simple as a fun writing challenge like this to actually finish my first ever novel.

Now, don't get me wrong, this draft will be shit. It's meant to be. It's not meant to be published, not in this form, but what it is meant to do is get the story from out of your head and onto the page. That's where it needs to be in order for the real magic to happen - the editing (but that's another topic for yet another day).

For now, you can take joy in having something you can now start working on without the pressure of fearing you'll never get it done.

What Do I Want To Get Out Of It?

Having taken part in a couple of these now, and having written novels longer than 50K words, I'm looking at using this challenge as a way to try something new. Something very challenging. My plan is to write a full novel, one that has been lying dormant in my compost heap of ideas for several years. It is a departure from the crime novels I've been writing, and something more akin to a Stephen King book.

With a draft of the fourth Louise Miller novel now sitting and stewing for a few weeks, what better time before I start the edit of that book than to write something completely different. I only have November free (December is the edit of the fourth Louise Miller book and January I start writing the fifth), so the goal is to write a complete first draft in 30 days.

And it's going to be a big book. I'm looking at 450 manuscript pages by the end. So that means a change to my tried and tested writing process. I'm comfortable trialling this on something that isn't contracted so if it all goes tits up and the intense writing produces shit, I'm not screwing up a potential release.

The plan is to get 15 pages done each day. That sounds a lot, but in reality that is 3 writing sessions of 5 pages each session. Around 6 hours work in total, and as I now write full time, I don't see this being an issue. This was one of the reasons I abandoned social media - to better focus my concentration on getting more writing done but at a consistent high quality.

I'm really looking forward to it. Today I'm just putting the finishing touches to a very basic bullet-point outline, as well as getting my daily page tracker ready. Alongside that I've put together a music playlist that sets the tone for the book. I'm not sure how successful this will be, and to be honest, it's a little terrifying as I'll be really pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but at the end of the day, that's what NANOWRIMO is all about, isn't it?

I highly recommend you give it a go.

Are you taking part? Let me know in the comments below, and if you are, good luck. If you're not - why not?