Do you consider yourself a wordsmith? Have a great idea for a story, but need a little push to get yourself moving on it? Then November’s the month for you. Why November, you ask? Because it’s National Novel Writing Month. In 30 days, contributors from all over the world log onto the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website and track their progress as they aspire to write a 50,000-word novel.
NaNoWriMo actually got its start in July of 1999, when freelance writer Chris Baty and 21 of his friends in the San Francisco Bay area launched their ambitious goal — and many of them achieved it. The following year, Baty moved the project to November (to take better advantage of the not-so-exciting weather) and saw 140 participants on his newly-created website. In 2001, 5,000 people registered; 2002 saw a roll of 14,000; and by 2010, over 200,000 aspiring novelists joined in the fun. Last year, according to the website, “341,375 participants started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.”
So, how exactly does NaNoWriMo play out? There aren’t necessarily “rules” per se, but the general idea is this:
- Go to NaNoWriMo.org and sign up. On the site, you can find encouraging stories and messages, networking opportunities with other aspiring novelists, the daily “NaNoToons” comic, and other resources to help you as you trek through your novel.
- Beginning at midnight on November 1, start writing a story. (I know that this post is coming out a few days late, but you can make up that time.) Your work can be in any fictional genre you want, talking about anybody or anything that piques your interest. Fanfiction (using characters and/or settings from other stories) is acceptable — since, as the website says, “If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.” The only stipulation is that you have to do it by yourself. This is a solo marathon, not a relay race.
- Write whenever and wherever you want. If the muse strikes at 2:37 in the morning, go for it. If you get a great idea as you’re having lunch at Panera, work it through.
- Keep track of your progress on some sort of platform that provides a word count — MS Word, Pages for Mac, and Open Office Write all have this functionality. Remember, you’re aiming for 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes out to roughly 1,700 words a day. (Just as a point of reference, this blog post contains 614 words.) The NaNoWriMo site also gives you the opportunity to update your word count progress, so that you can celebrate your success and hold yourself accountable.
- Starting on November 25, you can copy and paste the text of your story into their word validator. If your total count is over 50,000, you’ll be declared a winner and will have access to “a few prime novelist goodies.”
Now, if you’ll notice, nowhere in any of the descriptions of this novel is word one mentioned about actual quality. That’s not what’s important here. There’s plenty of time to edit afterwards — what matters here is that you actually get those words out in front of you. But does that mean that everything that comes out of this November authorial marathon is junk? Not at all. Case in point: Water for Elephants — yes, THAT Water for Elephants (the one that got turned into a movie starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon), was a 2005 NaNoWriMo contribution.
So, are you ready? We here at Rolfing would love to hear about any of you folks that feel so inclined to take on this challenge; we can cheer you on, and celebrate with you when you’ve crossed the finish line. Plus, who knows? Maybe your story can find its way onto our shelves!