To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

November 1st is just around the corner. Writers, you know what that means! NaNoWriMo. If you are unfamiliar with this caffeine driven, slightly manic event, it’s an annual internet based project that invites writers to create 50K words of a novel during the month of November. If you’re thinking about writing a book, this event can help you kick start the process. Having participated in the past, I have some thoughts to share about NaNo.

What are the pros?

You’ll enjoy community support.

For the month of November, we’re all in this together. It’s fun and energizing to know that writers across the world are participating in the event. NaNo is its own writer support group. Local branches schedule community writing times in libraries and coffee shops. There are online forums and writing challenges. Words of daily encouragement appear in your inbox. It’s helpful to have the momentum of a group behind you as you embark on writing a novel.

You can kick-start a project.

While 50k words doesn’t really hit the appropriate count for most adult genres, it still a huge chunk of content. If you’ve got an idea you want to flesh out, start writing. At 50K words, you’ll have a good portion of the plot worked out by the time November ends.

You’ll create a strong habit life.

In order to hit the word count by the end of the month, you’ll have to create an aggressive daily writing habit. The arithmetic is clear, even for us artsy types. To win NaNo, you’ll have to write over 1600 words per day – more if you want to take a day off during the week. On some writing days, hitting 500 words feels like a daunting task. NaNo will push you out of your comfort zone, and force you into a higher word-count habit.

What are the cons?

It’s really stressful.

In my experience, this is the only real con of participating, but it’s a big one. I’m productive as a writer because I schedule enough hours of daily writing time into my calendar. Whether I hit 500 words or 2000 on a particular day, for me, it’s about creating the time not requiring myself to reach a number. NaNo definitely pushed me, but it also made me anxious. It didn’t mesh well with the habit life I work with, and the content I produced required much more editing than my usual first draft work. So, all in all, I don’t think I really saved any time in terms of overall productivity.

And don’t forget…

Likely, you haven’t finished the novel at the end of the month, but at least you’re on your way. That’s great. Keep on it. If you did finish something, step away from the project before you do anything with it. It’s going to need work, so give yourself a little distance. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’ll be able to edit and get it into better shape. Whatever content you create during NaNo is truly a first draft, and it may even be rougher than your usual work because you’ve rushed your process.

If you’re thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo, go for it. At the very least, you’ll learn which habits work for you and which don’t, you’ll come out with some content, which hopefully can be molded into usable content, and you’ll develop a community of writer friends that will last far longer than the month of November. You may only want to participate once, or you may decide that the stress is worth the results and enter year after year. Good luck!

 

NaNoWrimo Write-Ins, your novel and you!

 

So with NaNoWrimo just mere weeks away, it’s time to makes plans! Plan your novel! Pants your novel! No one cares if it makes sense as long as you get the 50k in the kitty before November 15th it’s all good!

Also, plan to go to a write-in.

Wait, what’s a write-in?

A NaNoWrimo write-in is a public gathering of NaNoWrimo participants. Among many things done at these write-ins is participants type away on their laptops until they all get sick of each other or their work in progress.

Yes, you heard me, writers gathering in groups and typing away.

This may sound odd but it’s fun and you’ll find you get more work done in the end.

A brief background on myself, I started NaNoWrimo in 2004 in Rhode Island and gradually worked my way up to becoming an Municipal Liaison (ML) and in 2014 or 2015 stepped down so someone else got the fun job.

An ML’s job is essentially to herd cats, er, participants, send out emails to the region, hold a mandatory Kick-Off and Thank God It’s Over (TGIO) parties and schedule write-ins even if no one shows up.

A write-in is essential to your NaNoWrimo experience for several reasons.

First, so you know you’re not doing this alone. The comradeship helps as November rolls on and the writers who were hot to trot three weeks ago all of sudden dwindle to nothing by the time Black Friday comes round.

Second, because coffee shops.

I was never a really big coffee drinker in junior, high school and college. I’m one of this morning people that can roll out of bed at 6am and start working without the caffeine.

So, when I started to frequent places like Panera, Reflections, Brewed Awakenings, the now defunct Borders Café, Blue State and Elephant Room (now Schastea) and so on, I figured out what I liked and what I didn’t. This helps later on in life when you’re writing to make a buck and can’t get any work done at home.

Besides the drinks, being an ML is meant looking for places where if need be the entire group of writers (10-15 on a good night) could de-camp for three hours and write without ticking off the owners. Doing these events taught me to look for several things like seating, electrical outlets and parking.

Along with all this, I learned to keep a surge protector in my bag at all times just in case which has saved me on more than one occasion.

Thirdly, write-ins are fun because if you hit a brick wall you get to people watch and listen to for instance a comedy stand-up act about Muppets and fisting.

Lastly, it’s fun to see your fellow writers and swap war stories about losing a thousand words or how many words they gained. Word Wars are started this way and it’s fun to have someone nipping at your heals. This hobby can be very lonely at times unless you manage to hit pay dirt and begin a professional career out of it.

It’s what helped create the writer group I started some eight years ago and out of the core group, myself included, five of us have gotten short stories published or in my case published novel that took me seven years to finish because as much I as I thought I was writing it I wasn’t put my ass in seat, cut the cable tv, the PS4 and the twitter feed to finish it.

So, when November rolls around as it does every single year, check the regional calendar and see if there’s a write-in. Bring your laptop, the charger and your noise canceling headset and go to write-in. Get a lovely NaNoWrimo sticker for which the ML should have many and start typing.

You’ll surprised at how much writing you’ll get done with everyone else is tapping away on their keyboards.