National Novel Writing Month
A new month is just around the corner, and for writers, there’s something exceptionally special about this one. November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that encourages writers across the world to write 50,000 words of a novel during the 30 days in the month of November. Why 50,000 words? That’s the generally agreed-upon minimum length of a novel, and the event is called National Novel Writing Month. Hundreds of thousands of writers participate every year, challenging themselves to either write a new novel or finish a later draft of a WIP.
Starting the challenge is easy: you make an account and track your word count progress. Winning is a different story, and requires preparation, dedication, and consistency. Though it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding, it is equally difficult and overwhelming, and it’s definitely not for everyone.
Should You Participate?
NaNoWriMo is an incredible event and a great way to test your writing skills. If you struggle with setting deadlines for yourself or maintaining a consistent writing schedule, participating can help you focus better. It can give you the motivation to finish a novel without procrastinating.
You might think that any novel written at that speed can’t be good, but that’s not always the case. In fact, bestselling author Marissa Meyer wrote the first draft of six of her novels (including Cinder and Renegades) during NaNoWriMo. Of course, you will still need to revise afterward.
But there are other things to consider, apart from exercising your writing skills and finishing a novel. How is your schedule for the next month looking? Will you get enough time away from school and/or work to focus on your WIP?
And what about your writing process? If you like to think through your scenes before writing them but don’t like outlining first, NaNoWriMo might not be for you. Of course, it can also be a good experiment!
Additionally, think about where you are in the writing process. If you’re revising or editing a novel you’ve already written, now might not be the time to start a new WIP. On the other hand, if you just finished a draft of a novel and are taking a break before revising, NaNoWriMo might give you something to do during the month between drafts.
How to Make the Most of NaNoWriMo
Here’s some bad news for pantsers: jumping into a novel with little to no preparation doesn’t work when you have to finish it in just over four weeks. NaNoWriMo leaves no room for writer’s block, and you don’t have the time to change your entire plot three chapters in. (Coming from a fellow pantser, I know this is incredibly disappointing).
Do you have to outline your entire book? No, though it will definitely help.
It will be incredibly difficult to make consistent progress in your word count if you have no idea where your story is going. At the very least, write a five sentence summary of the characters, stakes, and goals. Knowing the beginning, the end, and some part of the middle will make hitting your word count goals much easier.
It’s far too common to hear a writer start NaNoWriMo with a detailed outline, a particular goal, and endless motivation only to find themselves unable to keep up with their goals midway through the month.
The first few days are typically easy. Even pantsers know where their story is going to start (usually). But excitement can make you overwrite. 50,000 words across 30 days is just under 1,700 words per day. Writing 3,000 words one day may put you ahead in the short-term, but it can cause you to burn out. You might find yourself too tired or unable to write more one day, causing you to fall behind. Moral of the story: slow and steady wins NaNoWriMo.
Of course, even if you try to follow a schedule, there will be days you fall behind. When those days come, deal with them as soon as possible. Catch up to your word count at the first chance you get; otherwise, you will be left with thousands of extra words to write in the last few days. November is a short month, so don’t procrastinate.
Talk to People
Find fellow writers who are taking part in NaNoWriMo or tell someone you trust what you are doing. Ask your friends to check in with you about your progress every once in a while, and do the same for them if they are participating. Having someone to keep you accountable can ensure that you are focusing on your writing and reaching your goals.
Your Mental Health
NaNoWriMo is tiring. Especially if this is your first time, you might find out that it’s even more demanding than you expected. For young writers, it’s the time of year when schoolwork really begins to pick up.
Writing nearly 1,700 words each day takes time, dedication, and motivation. If you find yourself short of any of those three, you won’t be able to write effectively. It’s essential that you stay attached and invested in your story, and you should always keep your goals in mind. Do your best to set a routine and block out a part of your day to dedicate to writing.
However, if you find yourself unable to keep up with the demands of NaNoWriMo, don’t force yourself. Writing is supposed to be fun, and although it is important to overcome challenges, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your mental health. Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks or not reaching your word count. Winning NaNoWriMo isn’t the most important thing in the world. You can always decide midway that it’s not for you and return to a writing schedule that works better for you.
If NaNoWriMo sounds too stressful for you, but you still want to participate in some way, Camp NaNo takes place every April and July. Hosted by the same organization, Camp Nano allows you to pick your own writing goals for the month it takes place. It’s a great time to work on writing in whatever way you want. NaNo still holds you accountable and rewards you for achieving your goal by the end of the month.
I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo because I can’t stick to an outline even if I try and I love editing as I go. But to those of you who will be participating, I wish you the best of luck! Let me know if you will take part in the comments.