NANOWRIMO – SHOULD YOU? DARE YOU? - The Open College of the Arts
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OK, I admit it. I have never had the nerve to sign up for NaNoWriMo.
For those who are baffled by the title, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an event established twenty years ago to get people to commit to producing the rough draft of a novel in thirty days.
How on earth is that possible?
The idea is that you sign up online at the beginning of November and submit an average 1,667 words a day, which will give you, at the end of November, a total of 50,000 words. OK, that is a very short novel – so perhaps not a complete draft, strictly speaking. But with that amount of words, you really would be well on the way and a quick burst of activity in December should finish the draft.
This year the organisation expects around 400,000 people worldwide to take part.
I can see why it appeals: what an achievement it would be. There are some fantastic reasons to try this unusual method of starting a novel.
For one thing – it’s just for thirty days and it can kick you into starting a writing project you’ve been wibbling about for some time. It’s a great discipline to be able to write every day – so on the basis that you can establish a habit in around a month, this is one way to get used to a writing routine.
I’m a huge fan of powering through your first draft without editing. For me, it’s the only way to get finished. If you stop at every point to edit and tweak, you will not move on very fast (and you can completely stall). So if you’re a “tweaker” who can’t progress until every word is perfect, this would be a good challenge to make yourself create some serious word count. You can edit later, when you have the whole thing in front of you!
The other great thing about the NaNoWriMo system is that you become part of a community. OCA students should have no issues with the idea of reading, submitting and feeding back on work at a distance, but there are also local “real” events in some places. The support of others who’re going through the same thing can be invaluable. This year there will also be regular online “pep talks” from published writers. If joining the online or local community doesn’t appeal, however, then that is not a reason to duck out of NaNoWriMo, because that side of the participation is not compulsory – only the writing part’s essential.
If you do complete 50,000 words in thirty days then you’re a “winner” – there are some sponsored “prizes,” but these are mainly discounts on things like writing software, etc., rather than what I would call a prize. I’d be happier with a badge or a certificate. But the point, really, is the huge sense of achievement.
So now that I have extolled the virtues of NaNoWriMo – why have I not tried it out for myself? I have to confess that it’s fear of failure. Last year, NaNoWriMo had 394,507 participants, but only just over 58,000 met their month-long writing goal. I’d be so annoyed with myself if I started it and couldn’t finish it that I have never dared even sign up. Just putting that into words makes me realise what a daft attitude it is! After all, it’s fear of failure that stops many of us from writing in the first place, and I wonder how many wonderful words have been lost as a result. Maybe – just maybe – 2018 is the time to do it.
Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Did you succeed? What came out of it?
Want to try? Here’s the link:

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Posted by author: Barbara Henderson
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  • I tried NaNoRiMo when I was faced with my first creative writing course and I didn’t know how to begin. I felt that jumping right in with both feet was the way to go but I didn’t know how to motivate myself, living in an isolated place with no fellow writers anywhere in sight. I didn’t complete the words or win a prize but I did find support and motivation – inspiration even – and I made friends. It got me started on journalling – necessary to meet my daily word target – I completed my first assignment and I never looked back. It’s a project worth joining for anyone who feels they are on their own with their writing and who enjoys a bit of competition.

  • Hi Barbara, Good to see this article appear here, even if it’s too late for this year. I’ve taken part three times and written over 50k words each time. It is highly motivating to see your word count growing on your private graph each day. No-one looks at what you write, and there is no feedback. The aim is to get people writing, and the organisation promotes programmes to encourage people of all ages to start writing. It is great fun to do. You can write anything; it does not have to be a novel. Last year I wrote 170 short stories using prompts that I had been collecting for months beforehand. You can link into your local writing community too if you wish. Some even meet up and write together at local cafes etc. I would encourage all writers to use the month to exercise that writing muscle! I agree with you, there is no time to edit, and pushes you to finish a decent body of work. It promotes a good writing habit that will last a lifetime. Jo

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