It’s only three days to go until the start of Nanowrimo.      

 

For the uninitiated Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel which takes place every November. In reality it is an international phenomenon founded by Chris Baty in San Francisco in 1999 that has since spread by word of mouth and through the internet. (You can read all about it in No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, Chronicle Books, 2004)

I was first introduced to Nano a couple of years ago when a few of my writing buddies encouraged me to join them. At that point I’d spent 3 or 4 years on my first novel so the idea of churning one out in a month was both completely ridiculous and strangely inviting. I needed to do something different and I’d had an image in my head for a while of a woman standing in front of a locked gate outside the family farm where she grew up.

And that was all I started with, apart from a few rough notes I pencilled out the week before and a feeling that the task ahead of me was impossible. But it wasn’t and I have to say it’s one of the best writing experiences I’ve had and one I highly recommend.

Here’s why you should give it a try:

  1. 50,000 words in a month is do-able. It breaks down to 1700 words a day, roughly 4 pages – one to one and a half hour’s writing.
  2. It shows you that writing every day IS possible. Nano forces you to arrange your life around getting your pages written. Whether you do it first thing in the morning or stay at the computer every night until the words are done the writing becomes your priority and you see how easy it really is to make it a part of your daily routine.
  3. Writing daily keeps you in the dream of your story. You live and breathe your novel for the month, not just while you’re tapping away at the computer but while you’re driving, showering, shopping, eating – the ideas bubble away 24/7. Consequently the writing flows and the voice is consistent.
  4. Nano teaches you to block out your internal editor/censor, that voice that says “You can’t write that” or “Stop kidding yourself” or the myriad of other criticisms it spews out as you write. There’s no time to stop and rewrite, no time to correct mistakes. You just have to push on and worry about all that later. You learn to discipline yourself not to listen to the nagging.
  5. Writing at a fast pace with no concrete plan allows you to tap into your subconscious where all those wonderful ideas are stored. You’ll be amazed at the ideas, descriptions and plot lines that appear. By asking yourself “What happens next?” every time you sit down to write you’ll be pushing your plot forward and opening up a whole range of possibilities you might not have thought of under “normal” writing conditions.

And to top it off, nano is fun! You can log into the website (www.nanowrimo.org) and keep track of your  progress, chat to other nanwrimo-ers, join up with friends for nano sessions or meet new people at your local writing centre, many of which run weekly nano sessions like the NSW Writers’ centre (www.nswwc.org.au).

At the end of the month you’ll have a brand new 50,000 word draft that could be your next novel. It certainly won’t be perfect – you might have given the same character three different names and repeated the same conversation five times but you will have something on the page to work with in the new year.

Of course it could also be a pile of garbage that you relegate to the bottom drawer never to be looked at again but even if it is you’ll know that you can write every day, that it is possible to come up with new ideas and that your internal editor can be ignored – at least temporarily.

I’d love to hear your nano stories or comments. Please share.

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