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A Novel Idea: National Novel Writing Month

Image Source: NineOK/Photographer's Choice

Image Source: NineOK/Photographer’s Choice

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is upon us once again!

Each year, millions of participants from around the world pledge themselves to the task of writing a 50,000 word novel from November 1st through 30th. While Nicole Drum has covered the history of the event here, I’m going to focus on the process of writing that novel and making it from the Day 1 until Day 30.

So you’ve decided to write a novel? Great! You’ll be famous! Even if you’re not famous, you can always use it as a conversation topic at parties. Even if you never speak about it again, you can always tell yourself, in your darkest moments, that you wrote a novel once upon a time. The words you write never have to see the light of day; it’s enough that they exist for your perusal and, perhaps someday, for someone else.

What’s that? You don’t know what to write about? No problem! Don’t let that stop you.

NaNoWriMo is made for breaking out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to be an accomplished writer to participate, though many accomplished writers turned a rough draft novel into a best–seller or even a trilogy of them. The important thing is to get started and write. I schedule time in mid–to–late October to determine if I’m participating (I usually am) and what I’m writing (I usually don’t know).

Two types of writers participate in this endeavor. Planners, the first group, need a framework for their ideas. Inspiration struck me at the coffee shop. Once my initial panic of finding a pen and paper wore off, I sketched out an  idea and a few chapters, I don’t know everything about the story yet (few writers do) but I know my basics. I know a little about my main character, a supporting cast member or two and the conflict in question. Urban Fantasy is my favorite genre and a lot of my short stories and ideas follow this vein.

Pantsers, our second group, find planning stifling and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, hence the name. They sit down on November 1st with a blank page and just write whatever comes to mind. Ninjas? Yes! Zombies? Of course! Robots? Sure, why not?  Pantser let their creativity guide them from one word to the next, driving their story to any conclusion that strikes their fancy. There are no sacred cows and no limits. This group hits the ground running and don’t stop until they’ve reached their fifty–thousand word mark.

Weekly write–ins are another integral part of the NaNoWriMo process. Talking with others who share your passion keeps you putting one word in front of the other when you start having doubts. The middle of November is, for me, the hardest part of the competition. That idea that sounded great and flowed together on November 1st hits a wall. Other ideas sound better. The trick is to keep writing, no matter how you feel. It won’t be perfect when you’re done and that’s okay! I’m a perfectionist by nature and that is the hardest part of the writing process to accept.

On November 30th, you’re exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally but you have a rough draft of your novel sitting before you. When I look back at the number of times I’ve competed in and finished the competition, that’s the part that makes the struggle. I might read it back and cringe a little but, here and there, I see an idea that grabs me. Soon, I’m editing and revising until my next draft is ready. One of these days, I’ll have something to share but NaNoWriMo taught me that it’s not about starting the process. It’s not even about finishing it.

My favorite part, win or lose, is the story I build along the way.

(We’re only 12 days in and there’s plenty of time to start! Head over to www.nanowrimo.org to get started!)

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3 Comments on “A Novel Idea: National Novel Writing Month”

  1. Jami November 13, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I’m just not up for it this year, but I wish you luck and joy as you get through this month!

  2. NotAPunkRocker November 13, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Pansters. I like that term. Definitely me, though I am not in NaNoWriMo.


  1. How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo in 4 Easy Steps | The Hudsucker - October 3, 2017

    […] level of planning before you dive headfirst into your novel writing adventure. As our writer DeShawn Blankenship wrote, the actual amount of preparation required depends on your own comfort level. Some writers caution […]

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