November is rushing toward us with a big grin on its silly face. Why? Because it brings so many interesting things for us to think (or worry) about.
For many of us, two of the really big November surprises are Thanksgiving (didn’t that happen just last year?), and the Day After Thanksgiving, A.K.A., the biggest shopping day of the year. These consecutive days are guaranteed to turn our world upside down, and to usher in the Christmas Holiday season.
OK, fine. We know that Christmas decorations and sales began around the first of October, but that’s hardly the Holiday Spirit, now, is it?
I look forward to November for another reason. During this very week, some 10 years ago, a friend from work told me that she was about to participate in something called NaNoWriMo, and asked me if I was interested.
I congratulated her, but informed her with a straight face, that I didn’t have time for something that sounded like a crash course in Baby Talk.
With persistence, she explained that NaNoWriMo actually stood for the “NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth”, and that it, in its third year, was an excellent opportunity to pit myself against time and fear, and to put whatever talent and skill I might have on the line.
I took the challenge—this was in 2002—and I allowed fear and lack of discipline to do me in. I failed that first time. Self-confidence comes with experience, not through posturing.
As you might expect, I beat myself up for over a year, but kept writing nonetheless. When NaNoWriMo came around the following November, I decided to give it another try. This time, rather than only try to do the requisite number of words per day (1667), I did my best to double the daily requirement, thinking that if I got sick, had to take a break, or over-ate on Thanksgiving, I could still make the grade.
Now, before you start thinking I’m telling you all this to brag, consider this: NaNoWriMo is a gift. If you have a novel in you, that wants to meet the light of day, if you have been suffering from writer’s block, (or the more common “Writer’s Blah), and you need a leg up, if you would just like to flex your creative muscles, or if you are ready for a challenge that really IS a challenge, this is your opportunity to step up, and to step out.
The rules are simple. They are:
- You can write about anything at all. Anything. EXCEPT a work in progress. The idea is to open up your mind, your creativity, and your skills set, to new ideas.
- You compete, but only with yourself. Your goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to 1667 words (minimum) per day. If setting and keeping a daily word goal has been an issue for you, this is one great way to build up a strong habit that will serve you throughout your writing career.
- The idea is NOT to complete a pristine, finished work in one month. You are encouraged to write fast, to turn off your inner editor, and just go for the word count. You can worry about quality and readability after November 30th.
- At the end of the month, you upload your document to the NaNoWriMo server for word count. The moment the word count is complete, the file is deleted. Those who are concerned can first encrypt their document, and then have the words counted.
That’s pretty much it. You don’t sign away your novel, your house, or your first born. You compete only with yourself, but you have the chance of meeting and exchanging ideas with others who write in your genre if you want.
The bottom line is this; There is nothing quite like sending up your file, and knowing that you did what so few people on earth can actually do. You wrote 50,000 words in 30 days.
I challenge you to join me this November for another shot at 50,000 words in 30 days. Bring any idea, your imagination, some caffeine, and let’s write a novel!