Free-For-All Friday: NaNoWriMo, The Truly Masochistic Endeavor
Yes, it’s that time of year again. We are 17 days away from the beginning of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month, when a few hundred thousand people crawl out of the woodwork to participate in a month-long, high-intensity challenge to write a 50,000 word novel. All sorts of people participate: students, housewives, full-time writers, published and hope-to-be-published-soon writers, people working two jobs… It is always amazing to me how many people who have very little free-time still make the commitment necessary to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes out to approximately 1,666 words per day.
Last year I participated for the first time. I had thought about it before, but I was in grad school and crazy-busy and it just didn’t seem possible. But last year, having taken the year off from school before starting my PhD, I had plenty of free time to just write, so I did. And I completely the NaNoWriMo challenge with approximately 70,000 words though I didn’t actually finish the whole novel until this past June (with 165,000 words).
It was an absolutely exhilarating experience. I had a few friends who were also participating and we encouraged each other on Facebook and over messaging. I also went to a few local write-ins and met some of the other participants in the Houston area, which was a lot of fun. And it led me to starting and finishing an entire first draft of a novel for the first time ever. Which was AWESOME.
This year, I’ve been very unsure about doing NaNoWriMo again. I have started my PhD, and as some of you know, I’ve been very busy. I’ve had difficulty keeping up with the blog, let alone any other writing. And since finals week starts Dec 7th, which means that the month of November is when the scramble to survive the end of the semester kicks in.
And yet… I’ve got a fun idea for a strange retelling of the Little Mermaid story that would be an absolute BLAST to write for NaNoWriMo. So, in a show of true masochist stubbornness (which I am fairly famous for among my friends), I have decided that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. It will be interesting to see if I can actually reach 50,000 words in the midst of everything else. I might just end up in a padded room instead.
‘Cause let’s face it: we’re all masochists at heart, right? We know we’re not going to get any sleep, we’re going to get carpal tunnel, and live on coffee (as if we don’t already), and our families are going to alternate between being supportive and being downright irritated, and we’re going to frazzled and stressed out and lose what little sanity we have left. NaNoWriMo is a truly masochist endeavor. And we all love it. Because we’re masochists. And that’s what we do.
One of the things I think it is vitally important that people remember about NaNoWriMo is that this project should be considered a first draft. Or even a zero draft as I and many other writers call it. NaNo advocates just sitting down, shutting up, and writing. You don’t worry about quality, you don’t back-track to change things or edit, you don’t pretty it up. You WRITE. Every day. Period. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach as long as you don’t think this is the final project. There is not a single person who has ever written a NaNo project novel in 30 days and immediately sent out to an agent or editor, and actually had it published. The idea is RIDICULOUS. This is your zero draft: your “I’m going to get all my ideas down on paper without worrying or second-guessing or revising or editing or anything right now, because I know I’m going to have go back later and work on structure, and probably change/rewrite half of it, take things out, add things in, fix details, develop the characters more, etc” draft.
On that subject and others, here are few posts that have some great tips and information about preparing for and doing NaNoWriMo:
NaNoWriMo Cometh by Suzan Isik
The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Checklist by Suzan Isik
25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo by Chuck Wendig of Terrible Minds
NaNoWriMo 2011 by Ashley Prince of Byron’s Curse
The Whole “Nail Your NaNoWriMo” Series at by Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com
So! Who’s doing NaNo this year? Have you done it before, or is this your first time? If you’ve done it before, how were your previous experiences? If you’ve never done it before, what made you decide to try it now, and what do you hope to get out of the experience? It’s time to sound off, folks!