Have you ever been with family or friends and you discuss being a writer? And usually there’s always one or two that will say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book. One day I just might do that.” There is a solution to this and that is to write a book in thirty days.
The November Challenge
Back in 2005 I was introduced to the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). It’s a website where people gather together as a community and for the entire month of November, they strive to write 50,000 words. For most that seems an incredibly large amount of words. To others, a casual walk in the park. Either way, it’s a challenge that has been going on since ’99.
Founder Chris Baty and his friends in San Francisco had got together and decided to each write a book in the space of thirty days. He randomly chose a book off his shelf and did a word count and obtained the goal of 50K words. As the years progressed the number of writers increased as did the location of these people. Now heading into its 15th year (2013) they are hosting thousands of writers worldwide!
How to Prepare
The goal of course is to write your story starting at Midnight November 1st and ending at Midnight on November 30th. Of course you want some time to be able to submit your work into their validation counter and be officially listed as a winner. So how does one prepare? Since you only do the writing in the thirty days, it does leave months of time for preparation. Create a plotline, develop characters, and so on for the challenge.
Or if you’re not into outlining, you can always enter into the month with no ideas and no plot and just start writing and have things develop as you progress. I personally prefer a bit of an outline so I know where I’m headed but I don’t always start at the beginning.
The Magic Number
As you begin your trek to 50K words you have to keep one number in mind. 1,667. That’s the magic number because that is the average number of words you need to write every day in order to stay on track. If that’s too complex a number to remember try this…every three days you need to write 5,000 words.
What do you win?
In a word, nothing. There is no prize to win, no honors to achieve. However, you will receive a nice certificate of completion worthy of hanging on your wall to show your accomplishment, you will have the satisfaction of writing a foundation for a book, plus you will get to meet a lot of fellow writers from all over the word. What you put into the challenge is what you will get out of it.
To some people 50,000 words is only a novella and so they won’t even go into the challenge because they want to write more. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. I’ve been using NaNo as a way to discipline myself to write the story and most times my story will exceed the 50K after I’ve completed my challenge. Doing NaNo for me is just a way connecting with other writers who are online at the same time, it’s like going back to Summer Camp every year but without the mosquitos and the sadistic camp counselors.
Getting to 50K words
Sometimes this can be the tricky part especially if you’re not very good at writing. What I mean by that is coming up with ideas and dialog naturally without thinking about it. If the words can flow from your mind to the keyboard you will have no problem. If not, here’s some suggestions to help you out.
1) Above all else remember: Word count is key. Do whatever you have to do to get to the desired number of 1,667 a day or 50K in a month.
2) Shut off your inner editor. One of the main problems people have is dwelling on mistakes like misspellings, grammar usage, and describing the same character two different ways. This is only a first draft, most of which will be discarded in the long run. You’re not writing useless stuff, you are creating a foundation from which to build a story on.
3) Find time to write. No writer really truly has time to write. If they did, they would find a dozen other things more important to do than to actually write. List the things you do every day and when you do them and then eliminate that pointless stuff. For example, if you check your e-mail multiple times a day, cut it down to twice a day. Once in the morning and once at evening. Getting up thirty minutes earlier or stay up thirty minutes later and write in that time.
4) Notify Family and Friends. More often than not, the people who are a daily part of your life may not understand what you are doing or why you are doing it. Explain to them your goal and ask for their moral support and encouragement. Even if they still don’t understand just tell them it’s something you have to do. Make sure they help you find time to sit down and write.
5) Lastly remember that Life Happens. No matter what has happened last month or in previous Novembers, every month is different with its own special problems. In other words don’t neglect junior if he’s broken his leg or ignore the electric company who’s threatening to shut off the power. Take care of these important things because they will not wait. Keep an eye on your word count and always try to stay ahead.
Padding the story
In regards to point 5 above, it’s always a good idea to get as many words written in the first few days so that if Life gets in your way, you can calmly deal with it knowing that you are still ahead of the game. Another way to help is to pad your story with extra stuff that you full well know that you will delete later.
Suppose a character is going to sing the American National Anthem at baseball game, Find the lyrics to the song and insert them into your story. Yes, you didn’t write them but this is allowed. It increases your word count and it stays in connection with the story. Grant it you could pad your entire book but then that would make the exercise pointless.
Remember this is only a rough draft. You can’t expect perfection in thirty days nor should you try for it. Just get all of your thoughts and ideas on the page then go back later and edit. Too many people who are against the book in a month idea think that it will be immediately published. Even if you do write a story perfectly in the first draft it would be better to read it over and share with others before you put it out for sale. You might find where certain ideas that worked at the beginning of the story no longer apply because of what happens later on.
Should you decide to enter The November Challenge or try it during any other month, make sure you at least try to reach 50K words. It’s better to try and fail in thirty days than to not even bother to start and spend the next eleven months wondering if you could have succeeded. During my first attempt I only achieved 25K words but that was my personal goal and I was happy that I tried. You may not win every year but if you at least try it will be worth it in the long run.
This year I won’t be entering NaNoWriMo given that my first book is to come out on December 3rd. By the way, it is my first entry in NaNo back in 2005. But what about you? Think you have what it takes to write a story in thirty days? If you’re a former WriMo, share your previous experiences below.
Announcements: Starting next Monday October 14, 2013 I’ll be writing posts about the worlds of The Askinar Towers as my book will be published in December. I’ll be talking about the place visited and the characters that are introduced.
Another project soon to be in the works will be Observations from a Café Waiter. Starting Tuesday October 15th and posting every Tuesdays and Fridays you will get to meet Chuck and learn about life as a waiter in the Floor 17 Café.