NaNoWriMo: 30 Days and Nights of Literary Madness

It’s now day three of NaNoWriMo, and I’m a lot farther than I thought I’d be.

What is NanoWriMo, you ask?

NanoWriMo is a literary competition (against yourself) where you attempt to write 50, 000 words in the course of a month. It sounds crazy already, doesn’t it?

It began in 1999 with only 21 participants to over 200, 000 people signed up in 2010. From November 1-30, participants choose a genre, theme and language, and then write their stories. As they write, they input the number of words they have into their NaNoWriMo word count. The word tracker helps participants get an idea of their progress and how far they have to go.

What’s even crazier is the fact that I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo while in a post-graduate college program last year. I didn’t manage to reach my goal (but I’m okay with that).

NaNoWriMo is a great metaphor for the writing process. It’s exciting, challenging and sometimes frustrating. There are times when you run out of steam and lose inspiration, but that’s all part of the journey. You have to vanquish some monsters along the way, don’t you?

NaNoWriMo gives you permission to make mistakes and suck at writing. I like to think of it as a very long free-write, where you silence your “inner editor” as the organizers call it. During and after the competition you get awesome emails full of advice from authors, who encourage you along the way.

It really is a good process when you think about it. I mean, how many people actually set aside enough time to write down their awesome ideas and finish a book? NaNoWriMo gets you writing your first draft- it’s the first step in a literary journey.

If you’re new to NaNoWriMo or just looking for some general advice, here are five tips:

    • Set aside a scheduled time for writing (if possible): When I wrote last year, I would often write at night when I had free time from school or sometimes on the weekends (I think). It would usually happen at night though, being a night owl.
    • Focus on milestones, not failures: If you reach, say 10, 000 words by two weeks, celebrate! It takes a lot of dedication, concentration and work to write that much. Don’t focus on how far you have to go or how many words you’re missing because in the end, the word count won’t really matter.
    • Join forums with like-minded individuals: Join the forums for advice, writing buddies and resources. Also check out local meetings and write-ins in your area (and always be safe when meeting new people).
    • Check out @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter: This is NaNoWriMo’s twitter account for word sprints. These happen all the time (even late at night!), so you’re never short of inspiration or writing prompts. I find these very inspirational and encouraging.
    • Know what you’re going to write about: Whether you have an idea brewing in your head, a story plan all typed out or just like to fly by the seat of your pants it’s good to have at least a general idea of what you’re going to be writing about. Personally, I have to have a bit of a storyline written out or else I’ll sit there in November thinking up scenarios, characters and other things.  If you need some ideas on planning a story, I’ve written an older blog post here.

I hope these tips help and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year I hope you enjoy it.

And most importantly- don’t worry if you don’t like your first draft. It is a first draft after all.

Do you have any tips for NaNoWriMo or really good advice you’ve come across?

I encourage you to check out TR August’s post called And So It Begins. Very light-hearted and fun take on all the reasons to do NaNoWriMo.

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