While stores stock their shelves with Hallowe’en candy and fake spiderwebs, the writer-types among us are faced with something even scarier to contemplate than ghouls, goblins and a gazillion grams of sugar: National Novel Writing Month. Or as we like to call it, NaNoWriMo. This writing challenge encourages us to write 50,000 words in thirty days, pouring out words without thought for piddly things like plot, characterization, grammar or spelling. It’s an exercise designed to free our minds from the ties that bind us. For people like me, whose mind is pretty free of ties to begin with, it’s like taking a long jump off a short pier – taking my computer with me.
Years ago, Doris Day had a hit song called “Que sera, sera” (Whatever will be, will be), and NaNoWriMo encourages that mindset. Struggling writers are told over and over again that there are no rules (or if there are, most can and should be ignored) but the month of November is about the only time writers actively switch their brains to override. The point of NaNo is to overcome fear, to tear down walls holding you back from writing and completing a story. Well, maybe not actually completing a story, but making a darn good start on one, anyway.
I say this based on my experience “completing” NaNo several times. (I can’t remember how many times exactly, although there’s probably a way I can look this up.) You may think, “50,000 words? In a whole month? Easy peasy!” I assure you, it’s not.
You may have heard of people who completed and sold the story they wrote during NaNoWriMo. I know it’s possible – I even know someone who did this. But don’t count on it happening. Whatever you do, don’t submit anything you wrote during NaNo. Don’t even read it for at least a month or two. (It will take that long to get your synapses firing again.)
With NaNo less than a month away, pretty soon it will be time to register and make it official. The first year I decided to skip NaNo, I was relieved and disappointed in myself in roughly equal parts. This year, I’m on the fence about it.
Reasons to NaNo:
- I’ve been dilly-dallying about getting my writing mojo back after a sabbatical of sorts. NaNo will give me an incentive to make some kind of progress.
- I don’t have to worry about time-consuming things like framing out a plot. (Since I’m a pantser, this isn’t a huge concern.)
- NaNo always gives me a buzz from the energy flowing between myself and fellow NaNo-ers. Nothing like a good 30-minute sprint among friends to get the adrenaline rushing.
- It will give me something to focus on besides Christmas shopping and writing Christmas cards.
- Even better: it will give me justification for letting the dusting go another month or so. At this point, what’s a few cobwebs, more or less?
- 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s not much more than 1,000 words a day. I can practically do that in my sleep, right?
Reasons to say No to NaNo:
- At the end of November, I’ll have 50,000 words towards yet another story that will need endless rewrites and revision. Maybe I should work on one of the already “completed” stories waiting for an overhaul instead.
- NaNo makes me nuts, and the shorter, colder days make me nuttier than usual without the added stress. (Then again, it’s November. Apart from Thanksgiving, not much else is going on.) And, let’s face it, I’ve sent Christmas cards in January before.
- The dusting. Even my 4-year-old granddaughter has suggested I set aside a “Dusting Day.” Maybe a little house-cleaning would be a more practical use of my time.
- Joking!! When have I ever been known to be practical? I could spend the first half of November cleaning the heck out of this place and by mid-month it would need cleaning all over again. Might as well write.
- Reading. I’ve spent the whole summer reading, and I’ve barely made a dent in my waiting-to-be-read pile. If I commit to do NaNo, I’ll have to cut my reading time to zero for thirty whole days. THIRTY DAYS! This might be the deal breaker.
- Exercise, or lack of. Do I really need a month glued to this chair? (On the other hand, I’m not exactly running marathons the other 11 months of the year.)
I’m starting to feel like Tevye with his “On the one hand…” followed by “But on the other hand…” What’s the rush, anyway? I’ve got three whole weeks left in October. Plenty of time to think about this. Plenty of time. Right? RIGHT?
Question: Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? Did you meet the 50,000 word goal? And the big questions: will you participate in NaNo this year?
Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books and over 1,000 published articles. She also wrote one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke used to blog at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance Buy the Book blog. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter. Becke has two adult children, two awesome granddaughters and two cats. She has been married 45 years and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – November 11th to November 15th
- Go Forth and Nano!
- Sara Megibow Sells Romance – NaNoWriMo Cheerleader
- Sara Megibow Sells Romance – NaNoWriMo Cheerleader
- Practice Makes…Something by Becke Martin Davis