For most people, November signifies the month you eat a lot of turkey, sit around watching football with your family, contemplate thankful you are and finally get started on your Christmas shopping lists. But for a growing group of courageous writers, the month of November is blocked out for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). Nanowrimo urges writers, dreamers, thinkers and anyone who's ever said "Someday I will write a novel" to finally do it. Beginning on November 1, participants are prompted to write at least 1667 words a day and, by day 30, have a 50,000 word novel.
Nanowrimo first began in 1999 in San Francisco with a group of 21 people. The premise: to write a novel in month, marathon style. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to writing—an it truly motivates people to put pen to page. In 2010, there were 200,530 participants with 37,000 "winning," writing 50,000 words. The Nanowrimo website offers resources to help you reach your goal; there are forums for writers seeking advice or seeking procrastination. Every week an email comes to your inbox from published, award-winning authors cheering you on. There are also regional groups throughout the country that lend moral support, and have meet ups and write-ins.
Last year was my first Nanowrimo. Aside from penning a book about aliens (when I was ten) and abandoning a novel about a dolphin and his best human friend (shortly after), I had no prior novel writing experience. I always felt that they were too big, too much to handle. So when I heard about Nanowrimo, I knew I had to at least try it. It was an exhausting month of sitting at the computer and making myself write. I had to find little spaces of time where I could sneak in my word count in for the day, constantly telling my friends I can't go out, "Because I have to finish a novel this month." But, on November 30, I was finished with 50,000 words to my name. Sure, most of it was shit—that's not the point. I finally had something to work with.
There are a lot of Nanowrimo naysayers out there. "What's the point of writing, if all you're writing is crap?" Some agents and editors detest it, because come December and January they receive a heavy stack of terrible manuscripts to feed the slush pile. During Nanowrimo, it is quantity over quality, and that's okay for now because it's primarily a tool to help you get the words out. Being a writer requires discipline, coming to the computer everyday, putting words down if you feel inspired or not (mostly not). It requires finishing what you started.
It's easier to think of your Nanowrimo draft as "draft zero." It can be the worst writing in history, but at least you have something down. Your story is just starting to form; it has a beginning, a sort of middle and an ending that doesn't quite make sense, but from there you can edit and revise. Make something good, maybe even great, from the mess of your Nanowrimo manuscript.
You still have a few days to prepare—so tell your loved ones you won't be available this November, you have a novel to write. I'll see you on the other side in December.