I know some of you booksluttians out there are writers, and I know that quite a few of you are also NaNoWriMo participants. If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo (shortened from National Novel Writing Month), it’s a major effort by writers all over the world to come together and support each other in the endeavor of individually writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days. In my opinion, of course, it should actually be called International Novel Writing Month; I live in Japan, and I have friends of several different nationalities who are also participating. But whatever the name, and regardless of whether it is national or international, the main thing to take from it is that NaNoWriMo is a call to action.
One of my biggest problems as a writer is that, for a long time, I didn’t write. I had dreams of writing, but no motivation to do it. I knew that I wanted to write fiction; I wanted to write short stories or novellas or novels, and I wanted to eventually write something that could be published. What I needed was for someone to light a fire under my ass and help me get moving. NaNoWriMo was that fire for me.
Last year was my first time trying to write a novel. I started with a session of Camp NaNoWriMo in June where I made it to over 38K, and then I did a second session in August with a completely different story where I was able to exceed the goal of 50K words. I did it again for the official NaNoWriMo in November and was able to finish another 50K novel. So far, none of the things I have written have met my satisfaction for reworking and submitting for publication, but I haven’t let that discourage me. My November 2012 project was actually a very good idea with some characters I really liked, and I would very much like to try re-writing it or building on it.
This month, I am once again participating in the annual NaNoWriMo. I got off to a good start, but then had a few rough days where I fell behind. Still, having a goal to work toward gives me motivation and a reason to keep struggling. Some days, I dread writing and don’t know what I’m going to write about or what’s going to happen to my characters next; then I start writing, and the things that happen surprise me. Today, one of my characters completely skipped out of his plans to go visit Tokyo because the girl he loves (who doesn’t know he loves her) just got engaged, and he found out about it by her Facebook status. Now he has a strong motivation to stop a wedding on the other side of the world. Another character unexpectedly got lost on Yokota Air Base, and another one unknowingly started a serious rivalry with an inevitable showdown. These things weren’t part of my plan when I started writing this morning, but they are part of my plan now. And the plans can change. That’s the beauty of spontaneous creation.
Does that mean I think every writer should do NaNoWriMo? No, not at all. I don’t think it’s for everyone. Likewise, I don’t think that if you can’t meet the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month that you failed at the task. What made me a failure for years was being a writer who is not writing; even if you fell short of 50K, you wrote. Even if you don’t participate in NaNoWriMo, you can still give yourself goals and deadlines to spur you on. They can be daily word count goals, like the 1,667 word goal for NaNoWriMo, or they can be related to your project, e.g. to finish a chapter by the end of the week or write a scene every day. Or your goal can even be to write for a certain amount of time every day. In this way, you can incorporate some of the benefits of NaNoWriMo into your everyday writing life.
Of course, one of the most helpful things with NaNoWriMo is the support network; I can’t stress this enough. If you go on the NaNoWriMo.org website, you can check your local forums and find people nearby who are also doing NaNoWriMo, so you have people to help you brainstorm, discuss techniques, or just complain about the challenges of the lifestyle. I’ve found that some of my most productive writing time is spent at the table in the coffee shop with one or more other writers all drinking coffee, typing, and not talking to each other (much). Being able to meet with people in person or even to find other people online can help you form friendships and meet sympathetic souls, especially if your immediate family and the people you live with are not so understanding of your undertakings. If you aren’t doing NaNoWriMo, it’s still possible to form your own network of writers, so don’t overlook the possibility.
Now I am curious: How many of you are doing NaNoWriMo this year? How are the word counts coming? Those of you who are writers but don’t play the NaNo game, what are some of your secrets to success? Lotsa love and keep up with the writing!