My Great American Novel

It’s been too long. I think I’m ready for a new challenge. Swimming and travelling have been fun (and I don’t plan on getting married again!) Perhaps now it is time for a more academic endeavor. Enter NaNoWriMo.

ruta-de-don-quijote-toledo

What is NaNoWriMo?

I first heard of this crazy acronym reading Leo’s blog. NaNoWriMo stands for National November Write More Month. Basically, you sign up, you write your heart out every day in the month of November with the goal of dumping 50,000 words on paper to create a work of fiction. There is no editing and there is little consideration for anything other than raw content. It’s perfect for me!

Basic Rules

Here are the rules I got from the contest as soon as I signed up:

1) It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do so. But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

3) Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

3.5) There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through. Week Two can be hard. Week Three is much better. Week Four will make you want to yodel.

Why it Rocks

Like many other dreamers you may know I harbor the secret hope of one day completing the Great American Novel. My friends know this all too well. I’ve been threatening to write a lengthy piece of fiction (or two) for years now. But I haven’t ever finished. Most would say that a couple hundred pages here on a dozen or so stories doesn’t even constitute a start. But that’s what this contest should fix. NaNoWriMo allows you, in fact encourages you to just get words on paper without worrying about how pretty they are. For me this will cure a multitude of woes.

Woe 1: Procrastination

In the past, the times I’ve budgeted for writing by and large have been usurped by such worthy activities like tweeting, Facebook, laundry, mindless Internet surfing, and college football. Not the most productive of pursuits. The simple and necessary tasks of budgeting my time, eliminating distractions and marshaling my efforts into a creative productivity should work wonders.

Woe 2: Simplification

All great accomplishments can be broken down into small, essential tasks. NaNoWriMo does that. There’s no worrying about whether the prose is good enough – it won’t be. There is little worry about grammar, word choice, awkwardness of phrasings or anything else that my inner voice uses to derail me when I’ve sat down to write in the past.

Woe 3: Tangible Progress

I’m a sucker for physical, tangible proof of progress. I am a list maker and a list crosser-off-er. Watching my word count increase day by day will fuel me to continue the next day and the next after that until completion.

What NaNoWriMo Will Not Do

Completing NaNoWriMo will not guarantee me a novel. It will, however, guarantee me a lump of clay which I will be very inclined to shape into something worthwhile. At the end of the process I’ll have a 50,000 word lump of fiction and serious momentum. While that doesn’t constitute a novel, I think it will put me past the critical tipping point.

What’s Next?

Well, my criteria for setting a goal have been met. Let’s review. We have a clearly delineated measure of success: 50,000 new words towards a novel. We have a time box the achievement needs to be set in: between November 1st, 2010 and November 30th 2010. I have a plan – average 2,500 words a day (I like incorporating a buffer as it allows for life to be life in all it’s unpredictable madness.)

Only one component is missing; a support group. But we’ll get into that one next time.

For now, what about you? Do you have a novel banging around in your head? Ever see yourself putting it down on paper? Maybe writing a novel is not for you. I bet you’re working on something else completely awesome! Share with us below.

Alternately if you’ve already written your novel or competed in NaNoWriMo tell us below how you did it! Any advice for someone trying for the first time? Help a cubicle warrior out by leaving a comment below!

Comments

  1. Hey Ted!
    I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it. I’ve found that athletes such as yourself don’t need motivation for these types of goals, use the same principles you used for your mega swim. I’d give you more advice, but since I already wrote a whole post about NaNoWriMo, that pretty much summed it up.

    You WILL do this, you’ve already surmounted the hardest part: commitment. Yay!
    Let me know if you need support (email, Tweets, etc.) I’ll be right there for you, Ted.
    🙂
    ~Lorster

  2. Oh, you’re already pencilled in to be a LARGE part of this, Lori. No doubt about that. The roller coaster left the station, we’re buckled in for a ride. No stopping until it’s over!

    Thanks so much for your help and support!

  3. I tried nanowrimo once, way back when I was still fat and undisciplined…didn’t make it very far. I’m sure you’ll rock it! And I want to read it when it’s done.

  4. So… Mac…. I hear you want to write a novel. I also hear that you are in possession of some newly-found discipline.

    Congratulations! You’re drafted to enter NaNoWriMo!

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