Write a novel this November: NaNoWriMo

By Ali
Category: Fun | Date: Wed 29 Oct, 2008

Ever fantasised about being a novelist? Perhaps you’re taking an English or Media degree, or you’ve always written creatively. Maybe you’ve never actually put many words on paper, but you have some fantastic ideas – you’re sure there’s a novel in you. Or perhaps you’re just attracted to the fame and fortune that you think might go hand-in-hand with a life of book launches and newspaper reviews…

This November just might be where it all starts. NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, is in its tenth year. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a 50,000 word novel in November. It’s crazy, and it’s fun, and it’s exactly the sort of thing you should be doing while you’re a student.

Seriously; what are you more likely to remember when you graduate? The classes and parties you went to this November, or the fact that you wrote a whole novel?

NaNoWriMo – the basics

If you’re feeling intrigued, you probably want the basic run-down on how NaNoWriMo works. Participants can register on the website from anywhere in the world, and can validate their word count at the end of the month by uploading their novel to the online servers. (Your novel is never stored or read, so don’t worry about some unscrupulous fellow writer stealing it.)

Fifty thousand words might sound like a heck of a lot to write in a month – but when you look at it as 1,667 words per day, it’s not so bad. Depending on how fast you write, that’ll take you about one to two hours. Writing fiction is, I should add, considerably easier than writing a dissertation; you get to make things up rather than do research.

What’s taking part like?

Paul and I both did NaNoWriMo in November 2007, and (on the whole) enjoyed the experience. The flat degenerated into a state of even more untidiness than usual, and I think we ate rather a lot of junk food instead of bothering to cook … but we did finish the month with over 50,000 words each.

If you’ve never written a novel before (and I’m guessing most of Alpha Student’s haven’t), it’s a great experience. I already had a 100,000 word novel that I wrote as an undergrad, but NaNoWriMo was a brilliant way to get myself back into the writing habit.

I asked a few Twitter buddies for their thoughts on NaNoWriMo, and here’s what they came up with:

NaNoWriMo caused me to annoy my girlfriend, neglect my friends and half-measure my real work. Not to mention, I ended up discarding the entirity of the words I’d written as interesting but ultimately misguided.

But despite all this, I enjoyed it like almost nothing else and was so enthused that I couldn’t wait til the following November and did an unofficial NaNoWriMo the following March, with one of my few remaining friends.

Because, I suppose, if I hadn’t done it, I’d never have known the important experience of seeing my story spread its muck through my head, if only so I could identify it as muck and throw it into the skip.

As long as you remember that the process matters more than the outcome, NaNoWriMo is one of the most spontaneous, exciting and often bizarre experiences available. I’m doing it again this year, obviously.

Nick, former colleague of mine who appears to have forgotten that he did NaNoWriMo with TWO of his friends (or do I not count?! ;-)) He has a blog, NickMB.co.uk in a current state of mid-redesign, and writes on an entertaining blend of life’s little mishaps (Nick suffers more of these than most ordinary mortals), comic books, movies and novelling endeavours.

Nanowrimo is a great experience, because it teaches discipline more than anything else. The best thing to do is just sit down and write, and see what happens.

Joely, who writes and produces a popular fantasy podcast for her Amnar novel. She’s got a whole website about the Amnar world and background, too – well worth digging into if you need some escapism from uni life! Check out the site and podcast at JoelyBlack.net.

My 2001 Nano novel showed me that writing is about hard graft & just showing up to the page, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike … all those sleepless November nights were great training for years later when I had a manuscript deadline with a real publisher 🙂

Shauna, aka Dietgirl. I’ve been a fan of her brilliantly-written, blog which alternates between being snort-coffee-in-your-keyboard funny and grab-a-box-of-supersized-tissues moving. It’s called The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. I also snapped up her book, also entitled The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, when it landed on the shelves this January. An inspiring and highly recommended read (even if you’ve never had any weight/diet issues in your life).

Find out more

If the idea of writing a novel in a month sounds delectably crazy to you, check out the NaNoWriMo website, or read my post about NaNoWriMo over on Daily Writing Tips (which includes some useful hints on making it through the month).

John Hewitt has a brilliant series about all aspects of novel writing (characters, conflict, and so on) over on PoeWar – I strongly recommend giving it a read if you’re fairly new to fiction writing.

And if you’re a past or potential NaNo-er yourself, why not drop us a note in the comments?


2 comments:

  1. I believe I was talking about the unofficial follow-up in March when I said I did it with one friend. I did vaguely notice your presence last November, sprinting off into the distance without us.

  2. Apologies, Nick, you’re quite right … having re-read your quote I feel I have done you an injustice! But if I edit the article now, your comment will make no sense. Ah well.

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