It’s November again—National Novel Writing Month! And that means it’s time for NaNoWriMo.
The basic idea behind NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word manuscript in just 30 days. You aren’t supposed to do any revising or editing. You are supposed to get your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard every day so you can reach your target word count.
Some people have criticized the program, saying that this style of writing only helps you churn out words, not necessarily a good book. In fact, several book deals have arisen from NaNoWriMo projects—after much revision, of course. No one’s going into this thinking they’ll just start sending out sample chapters in December. Instead, the goal is to create a rough draft that you can continue revising throughout the year (December has become known as National Editing Month, as it follows on the heels of NaNoWriMo).
However, the benefits of participating in a speed-writing endeavor such as NaNoWriMo go beyond the drafting of a manuscript.
How You Can Benefit From NaNoWriMo
1. The goal is word count, not literary value (though if you end up with something publishable, good for you!). For me, this official “permission” to write 50K words of what may be total crap is very freeing. I don’t have to—in fact, can’t—quibble with my editor-brain over which phrasing sounds better, or whether my protagonist would be better off as a tall brunette or a short blond. All I have to do is keep those fingers moving. And surprisingly, what I produced during my last attempt at NaNoWriMo isn’t too bad. TIP: Write without thinking too hard or correcting yourself. Just let the words flow. You’ll polish it all up later.
2. The structure of the program helps participants cultivate a writing habit. I teach my students that the very act of sitting down to write on a regular basis helps train your brain to write more, better, faster. It also helps strengthen your ability to defy emotional reasoning (I really don’t feel like working, so I’m not going to), which in turn encourages discipline. Now I’m getting to experience that truth for myself! It didn’t work out last year, but I’m hopeful for better results this time now that I know what I’m in for. TIP: Choose a time of day you can continue using as writing time once November is over, to stay in the habit.
3. Participating in this effort year after year can ultimately help you become more prolific. Again, you’re training your brain to be creative on a constant basis. It’s essentially practice in churning out a rough draft quickly. You may take another year or more to revise it into something great, but that’s better than spending a year on the rough draft and THEN another few years on the revising. TIP: Don’t let a flood of great ideas distract you from your NaNoWriMo novel. Instead, write them all down someplace safe so you can explore them later—maybe for next year’s NaNoWriMo!
4. A program like NaNoWriMo forces accountability in a fun environment. Many people—including me—have what they feel is a great idea for a book, but can never find the time to work on it, either because they’re truly busy or because they’re afraid. In my case, it’s also because I find it difficult to shut off “editor-brain” and just have fun with the writing! When you do NaNoWriMo, you’re making a more solid commitment than just saying you want to write a book. And you get toys to play with! The NaNoWriMo website offers widgets, an online community (writing partners really help with that accountability factor, and it’s fun to share the experience), a word progress function so you can compare yourself to others, and more. And, since writing a novel can seem so daunting, the idea of committing only 30 days to the effort makes it much less scary. TIP: If you get thrown off track for some reason, don’t give up. Even if you don’t reach the 50,000 word count goal by the end of the month, you’ll still end up with a lot more than the zero you had before you started.
Stay tuned throughout November for updates on my NaNoWriMo 2011 experience. I’ll also be tweeting and posting to Facebook about it. I hope you’ll share your stories with me, too! I’d love to get a conversation going on my Facebook Page, in particular. Or leave a comment here!
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.