Ok guys, I know. It’s been too long.
Where have we been?
It’s been one of those months.
But, look around the corner. NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us!
Some of you know it, some of you don’t. For those unfamiliar with this wonderful portmanteau, it stands for
NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.
It started out in the July of 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area; a friendly challenge amongst 21 pals. By the following year, it had grown to be a (partially) international event, with its own website! It was during this second year that most of the current rules were formed, based largely on the editing experience of the founder, Chris Baty.
By the third year, those running the event had assumed it was going to draw a healthy 150 participants, when in reality around 5,000 showed up! You can read the account of events by one journalist, Kara Platoni of the East Bay Express, here.
After a bumpy year adjusting to increased site traffic and a new found popularity, the fourth year brought harmonious relief in the shape of a more automated and therefore swifter system ready to accommodate the ever increasing number of participants. Of course, that wouldn’t last for long…
Since then it has grown year on year into the mighty beast it is today; represented in nearly every part of the world, from Estonia to Australia, and Seattle to Beijing. It’s had its fair share of challenges, trials and tribulations, but the result is a wonderful annual event for the professional and amateur writer.
The journey from its humble beginnings is one worth a read if you have the time, and demonstrates the power of one man’s dream. See the story in the words of the founder here.
OK, but how does that help me?
Whether you’ve heard of it or not, it cannot be denied that an event such as this will:
- help you focus your writing by forcing you to regularly sit down and knock out some wordthings
- enable you to see from within what the writing process involves, both the euphoric and disastrous
- give you a sense of achievement if you actually finish the damned thing
So what’s stopping you?
But I don’t have the time
Which is kind of the point. A lot of people say they’ve got a great novel inside them, but they just don’t have the time to knock one out. NaNoWriMo forces you to engage with your inner word beast, and wrestle the behemoth onto the page. Knowing you only have to keep it going for 30 days means you are much more likely to give it your all; if you really don’t like it, you can count down the days until it’s over. In the meantime, you’ll be writing and writing, and barely have a chance to think about anything else.
Consider how many stories were written in the early hours before work, or late at night after the kids had gone to sleep. So many authors have to juggle full time work, marriage, children and other commitments with their writing. NaNoWriMo is a chance to try out re-adjusting your scheduling, and also a chance to see what you’re capable of if you put your mind to it.
On that note, it doesn’t just have to be for writers. The challenge itself could be for anyone.
Sounds great! How do I get started?
Let’s imagine the fundamental elements of a story:
- An outline = A beginning, a middle, and an end, including the key event that sets up the journey, and the final destination the story is building towards (the climax)
- Some characters = A hero and a villain (in the classic set up)
- Setting = The Nile river? London? Palau? Basque Country? The Moon? Once you decide the what and who, start to think about the where
- The other bits = These can come organically, or prepared, but what will really grab people’s interest into your story is the how (things are going to happen) and the why (should the reader care).
Let’s do it
Grab a pen, sketch out some ideas, and run with it. The goal here isn’t to write the best story of all time, or even of your generation. It’s about finishing something and being able to say “I did it!”
Those who hit the target word count of around 50,000 words are known as ‘winners’, and there’s all kind of memorabilia you can get to symbolize your wonderful achievement, from t-shirts to mugs!
That aside, it’s the personal feeling of completion that rocks hardest. How cool would it be to say ‘I wrote a novel’!?
Visit the NaNoWriMo website today and take a look around. You can set up an account in minutes, find your local writing community, and make a go of it. And the best part is it’s all completely FREE OF CHARGE!!
Tips for Success
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Think about it in terms of daily goals of around 1666 words, not as one big daunting mountain of 50,000 words, to keep from becoming demotivated.
- Write first thing when your will power is at it’s highest and your brain hasn’t been depleted by a day of work and life.
- Don’t lost sight of where you want to end up. The story can take a million twists and turns, so long as it ends up at an ending that satisfies the questions that were raised on the way.
- Try and have fun!
We at IQ will be taking part, and we’ll be updating our progress on this blog. If you are also taking part, let us know in the comments. Come along and join us on the journey!
Special thanks to Ambro, David Castillo Dominici, marin, stockimages and Stuart Miles, @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015