November 8, 2013

How to Do Your Own NANOWRIMO

What Mandy Thinks: "Words of Advice" post
Writing may be a hobby and not-so-secret love of mine, but there is always an excuse to not participate in the fabulousness known as NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month, basically writing a novel - 50,000 words - from scratch in 30 days).  Most were everything from "I'd rather do something else" to "I just don't wanna."  This year's November sneaked up on me to shake my confidence, filled with self-doubt and anxiety over my recent job loss and the endless Lyft driving to barely pay the bills.  Although this legitimate excuse is as legitimate as I'm gonna get, I still feel like I failed the little writer in me once again letting this event pass me by.  Picture a tiny wrinkly lady waving a NANOWRIMO flag in one hand and wagging a disappointed arthritic finger at me with the other.

I got really close a few years back.  I bought the No Plot? No Problem! book that helps you through the NANOWRIMO process (which is still bookmarked before Week 1 even begins), subscribed to Writer's Digest magazine (which I still am subscribed to - snail mail and all - and shamelessly collect whether I read them or not), and daydreamed about how great it would be to finally finish ANY of the work I have (which I still haven't due to my unwavering perfectionism).  The more I read through the reference book, the more I realized that my rush to commit to this endeavor was stupidly ambitious for a full-time college student with four jobs (long story).  This was just not the right November.  Those unsatisfying words maybe next year gnawed at me once again as my writing lady shakes her head.

But will I ever find the "right November" to finally get this personal goal and bucket list item checked off?  Just because I don't have the time to do the 1600+ words per day in a 30 day period this particular November in my life doesn't mean I can still participate in novel writing during this novel writing month!  Just because I don't want to abide by every rule about the event (whether it's the timing of it all, the 50,000 number, the from-scratch technicality, etc) doesn't mean I can't still enjoy writing throughout the month.

Here's some ways to still feel included in the NANOWRIMO festivities this month:

  • Continue and/or finish what you already have started.  What do you have lying around in the cobwebbed corners of your hard drive or stuffed in notebooks you haven't opened in years?  Do you have a plot or character idea that you've been meaning to expand on?  Is there something you thought was finished that could use a second or three-thousandth look?

  • Think small.  Do you really need to write an actual novel?  Is 50,000 words too overwhelming?  Try a short story, a novella, a theme, one scene, a detailed character development for a bigger project, or even a poem.  Writing something now is better than putting off writing anything.

  • Go into research mode.  Even if you're not writing a single word into a story you're passionate about starting, you can dedicate the entire month on research for it instead of the first week like the NANOWRIMO guidelines recommend.  Many writers take years to finish a book and many more years with research, just as many writers take one day to research and a week to finish.  Go at your own pace. 

  • Submit that manuscript you've been meaning to release out into the world.  Maybe you've been waiting for the right moment.  Maybe you're scared to take the plunge into publishing.  This could be the month to jump right in.

  • Above all, just start and keep going.  No matter what you plan to write or not write this November, the first step is to just START IT.  The 30 days may go by without finishing, but you still have a lot more than you did on the 1st.  The 30th is not a finish-or-die end date.  At least you started.

  • Join an group.  Maybe it's a Meetup group that includes NANOWRIMO events, or a Creative Writing class at a community college, or an online forum for writers.  When people of common interests come together, more gets done!

My NANOWRIMO plans include getting up to 75,000 words in one story I'm about three-quarters of the way "done" with (at 66,000ish now), extend character development on one or two characters from other stories (the main reason why those stories aren't done), and read over a few of my back-logged Writers Digest magazines from the past few months I've been neglecting. My inner writing lady shrugs but at least she's glad I'm trying something for once in my short life.

What are you planning for this NANOWRIMO?  Have you already started?  What are your goals and how do you stick to them?  Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE DECEMBER 2013: My only plan that was actually successful (insert the old lady slapping me in the head with the NANOWRIMO flag) was getting past 77,000 words on the one longer story.  At least there's that...

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