No, I’m not saying “Hello!” from the planet Ork. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The month in question being November, which is poised to sneak and pounce on us likewise the way September basically immaterialized before our very eyes. (Was there a September this year? Did anyone else experience that blur? Just me? Okay.)
The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Period.
That’s it. There is no rule stating you must pen a NYT Bestseller. You are not obligated to hit save and send to 100 agents and editors the moment you finish (FYI, that’s highly frowned upon, newbie). In fact, you have the express permission that every single one of those 50k words you vomit up during the course of November can amount to a big, heaping pile of text dookie.
Because the only requirement of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a story.
And yes, it can SUCK. Huzzah! In fact, it’s *supposed* to suck.
That’s the magic of the month. You get to write that “shitty first draft” Anne Lamont states all writers need to do just to get the words on paper.
You are NOT, however, during the course of the month allowed to edit your black hole vortex 50k of suck. More magic! Nope. You power through it. Plop in post-it notes of “insert conflict, research blahdiddyblah here, have epic sex/fight/epiphany scene” in the spots where you know what you want to happen, but aren’t sure how to write it and then you Move On.
Excited yet? I’ve just given you permission to suck at writing. What more do you want?
Want to take my hand and yippity-skippity into the magical land of ok-to-write-copious-amount-of-suck land? Let’s go!
Step One: Go make a name for yourself on the official website www.nanowrimo.org (And no, I’m not getting paid for that advertisement. I just hate to be a dweeb to talk about something and not tell you how to find it.) Fill in all the cutesy stuff that labels you a writer and poke your fellow writing buddies to add to your list and make you feel important. Do whatever to fill in all the blanks you’re comfortable shouting at the world in general about who you are and what your goal is as a writer.
The reason I say do this, other than the obvious hold yourself accountable to the task you’ve committed to factor, is because they have a neato tool that helps you track your word count and run stats over the course of the month on your progress. I’m a numbers person, remember? Bean counter? I live for this kind of shit. Especially when it means I can combine both left and right brain activity. That’s full blown mind candy, my friends. So do it. DO IT, I SAY!
I’ll wait. <insert Jeopardy music> Ready?
But HOW do I write FIFTY THOUSAND words in a month?? I can hear you gnash and wail and unleash your introverted hyper-insecurities. Easy!!! Do the math! The anal number cruncher in me will help the math-challenged (Lady Dee, you know who I’m talking to right now). To make 50k in thirty days, you must write at least 1667 words per day. That’s roughly 70 words per hour, .86 words per minute, (Squirrel!). Sorry, forgot myself a moment and went Rainman. You get the idea. Depending on how fast you can spew suck, 1667 words is roughly one uninterrupted hour of sprint-writing, by my calculations.
But what about Turkey Day? Black Friday? Holiday hoops to jump through before Xmas? Weekends, man?? Some days I just wanna sit in my jammies and scratch things I can’t in public!
Okay, fine. Then do the math another way to compensate by upping your word count for the days you cower away from your computer. Some days you might write 500 or 5000 words, just make sure it averages out to reach your 50k goal.
Spend the rest of October preparing. Maybe jot a few notes, think about the story you want to write, create a few characters, but DO NOT WRITE. You’ll want to. The desire to start now will burn inside you! But let the embers fuel you for the jump start on November 1st when you can unleash the story fire onto your unsuspecting computer. A lot of NaNo’s cheerlead and say you should also make meals ahead, prepare to let the laundry sit, ignore your family, lock yourself away, all in the name of plowing through to your goal, but let’s get real.
You don’t need to give up your life to write. IMO, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to break your lazy habit of writing ONLY when you have a spare minute and insert a write-every-day-no-matter-what habit in its stead. They say you can make or break a habit in two weeks. NaNo doubles that timeframe, and forces you to write every day for FOUR weeks. So, you miss a day or two here and there. That’s life, bucko. Your spawn needs attention. The day job requires your presence. I get it, financial and emotional bills need to be paid before you can follow your dream and write. But if your true goal is to BE a writer, then newsflash, you gotta WRITE!
Will all of you make it to 50k? No. I’m telling you this now. I have yet to make that prestigious goal and win the colorful and enviable little web badge stating I’m a NaNoWriMo winner! Maybe you’ll make it to 30k or 40k, but the point is, it’s a helluva lot more than you normally would have, right? So, that makes you a winner. Cuz I say so, that’s why.
But this year… THIS YEAR!! I have set my cap. As God Is My Witness! And you, of course, to hold me accountable and boo-hiss me as a miserable failure if I don’t….. No, wait. We are winners all. I promise you!
How do you prove you’ve reached your 50k goal, you ask? It’s an honor system, really. Each day, you can input your current word count into the cool stat thingy I told you about earlier to keep your daily tally, but by the last day of the month, you must upload all 50k of your writing to verify word count. They have a cool word jumbler that turns your suck to nonsense, so you don’t have to worry about them stealing your story. What happens after that? You win, of course! Nifty NaNo Scout Badge!!
No cash? No prizes? No free vacation? No, silly. You wrote suck. Be happy with the badge.
Of course, you could cheat, your cheating cheater-pants sub-conscious self is already realizing , and upload 50k words of some other project you didn’t write during NaNo. But who does that serve, really? Is the stupid internet badge really worth tainting your soul? Then be my guest.
OR, you could accept the challenge and show yourself you’ve got 50k waiting to be purged from your writer depths. It’s only a month. Any story could be told. Fill the blank pages that mock you. Make them your bitch.
Who knows what emptying yourself into a text file without some crusty internal editor to seize you up could create? What’s the worst that could happen? Sparkling little perfect morsels of story hidden inside the vortex of suck? The skeleton start of a potentially amazing plot? An intriguing character or conflict twist?
Yeah. That. That could happen. You may not suck as bad as you think. In fact, you may anti-suck yourself into believing you can do this.
Join me! Tra la la la! For I am the Pied Piper of Anti-Suck and I will play my magic blog-flute and lead you down this path of dangerously habit-forming writing exercise and we will succeed together.
Grab napkins and post-its and start manically scribbling ideas for your upcoming writing binge. Warn family and friends. Overfeed your pets. Stock up on Ramen Noodles and Mac-n-cheese.
Now go sign up and be my writing buddy! My handle is BNorman at www.nanowrimo.org.
See you there!