For the uninitiated: National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo for short, and nano for even shorter) is an annual event where thousands if not millions of writers around the globe come together in November to write a novel of 50k words, in one month. It's a massive event. If you know where to look, you'll find comradery, commiseration, complaining, excellent memes, and of course, lots and lots of writing.
50_000 words in a month averages out to more or less 1666 words a day. That might sound doable, but I have always struggled with consistency. Nano is both famous and infamous. Despite having written since my early teenage years, I have never considered taking part in Nano. I've had the dream for a long time to write a book, but I never thought of it as something that I could see myself doing. It just sounded like too big of a task.
However, recently I thought "I have this cool blog I haven't touched for way too long". My WIP folder has been growing for a while and I've never been able to make a good dent in it. So I wanted to piggyback off the energy that others are putting into this and finish a few drafts for the blog this November. I didn't set a goal for myself, but I wanted to finish as many drafts as I could and see where I'd end up. Cool idea right?
Well uh, yeah, check the title of the blog post. I completed nano in just over 20 days. I didn't write a novel per se, which is a requirement, but I wrote over 50.000 words in November. And you're looking at part of it. I wrote a bunch of blog posts and short stories, including this one, and I'm proud of it!
Mind you, the spirit of NaNoWriMo is that you just write. You don't reread, you don't edit, you just keep writing. It's a hefty word count. To achieve that word count, people usually encourage each other to get it all out there as fast as they can. You shouldn't worry about how good your writing is. If you do that, the writer's block might set in again. And we don't like writer's block, do we?
I have made a lot of good raw material this Novemver. However, it still has a very long way to go. I have to edit, rework, cut, proofread, and correct all of it. So while it will be a while before you see all of it, I thought it was a very cool experience, and I wanted to talk about it here.
One reason I hit the word count is that I found a wonderful website to motivate me to do all that writing alongside the encouragement I got from my friends. The website is called 4thewords.com, and it's a wonderful website for gamifying your writing. It's like an RPG where you have to battle monsters to power up, get cool stuff, and it just scratches an itch in my brain. A small team in Costa Rica makes the website and I like it very much.
Gamification can be very hit or miss for me, but this one clicked. There are ways you can spend money on it but I feel like the team handled it very well. It's very non-intrusive and not too expensive. I've never felt like the monetisation has impacted the experience. This is not in any way sponsored by them. No money is involved, but if you're interested, use this referral code (WDKYF65640) to get in-game goodies for both of us. #NotSponsoredJustAFan
The gamification helped me get my words in, even though I was not very consistent in my output, as you can see in this graph of my daily word count:
Yeah, I know, that big spike in the middle surprised even me. It surprised me how easy it was to get in all those words.
I had outlines for the blog posts in my WIP folder. I write those when planning a post to avoid forgetting my ideas. In the lingo of Nano, that makes me a plantser ("plantser" is a conjunction of planner and pantser). The planner-pantser spectrum refers to how much you plan out the writing you're gonna do. Planners are self-explanatory, but "pantser" is lingo for someone who just likes to Yolo the whole thing. A plantser is someone in the middle of that spectrum. I discovered in this Nano that I enjoy using a basic outline for writing. A nice thing to have learnt about myself, I'd say.
Another observation worth mentioning is how easy it went. I know I might jinx myself by saying that, but it is true. I don't mean it was something that required no effort. It required effort, especially on days where I only got the minimum number of words in. However, it was a lot more manageable than I had expected it to be.
I used to think Nano was only for incredibly dedicated individuals, that they needed months of planning or an iron will or a super well oiled writing workflow, or perhaps both.
Well, now, I'm here to tell you that this is not the case. It can be about as stressful and momentous as you make it yourself. It can be a lot of fun. I had a blast with it. It feels very good to break through the writer's block for once. So don't be afraid to try it for yourself.
This work echoes my previous sentiments on unnecessary originality. You can try it without consequences if it doesn’t work out. You don’t need to share if it feels overwhelming.
It was liberating to not worry about your performance and simply put your thoughts on paper. It's a quite refreshing pallette cleanser, especially if you've been in writer's block town for a while.
I would wholeheartedly recommend doing nano. I think I will try it again next year with more preparation and try to write an actual novel. To conclude: don't be afraid, trust the process, and go for it. We'll all be waiting on the other side, cheering you on.