By Sandra Fernandez (‘24)
With fall comes the reemergence of sweater weather, pumpkin spice (go read Devi’s article), and the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves. For writers around the world, fall, specifically November, means drinking coffee, messing up your sleep schedule, and participating in NaNoWriMo. Every year, many writers partake in this challenge to complete the ultimate task: writing a novel in just 30 days.
What exactly is NaNoWriMo? NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month; that is roughly 1667 words a day. Starting after midnight local time on November 1st, words spill out onto paper. Everyday, writers update their word count, and once they reach the fabled 50,000 mark, they receive a certificate. The rules are simple: write.
NaNoWriMo initially began in 1999 as a little writing challenge between friends, but it has now grown to so much more. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in this writing marathon. A website has since been created to keep track of daily word counts, provide resources, host writing events in local areas, and help fellow writers connect with each other. Just this past year, more than 550,000 writers participated in NaNoWriMo. According to nanowrimo.org, hundreds of novels written during this challenge have been published. Some include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Now you may be wondering why on earth you’d ever participate. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a novel but never had the time, or maybe you want something to motivate you to write more. Firstly, it’s a good challenge that helps you push past resistance. Starting is always the hardest part, and participating in NaNoWriMo can help you get past that hurdle. It also helps in building a writing routine by encouraging you to write everyday. Writing everyday strengthens a writer’s craft. Lastly, it’s a great way to channel your inner creativity and join the writing community. Convinced yet?
Here are some tips to help you win NaNoWriMo:
1. Finding something to write about – the tip to writing something for 30 days is to write something you are really interested in. If you’re writing about something you’re not passionate about, you’ll burn out after the first couple pages.
2. Preparing and outlining – this stage of writing isn’t necessary but it is encouraged. Outlining can be different for everyone. To begin, write a one-sentence summary to nail in the concept of the story. Outlining can also include chapter summaries, or descriptions of the most important scenes. If you’re writing speculative fiction, worldbuilding is also a big part of the preparation.
3. Finding the time to write – the best way to approach this is to write whenever you have any free time; this means being prepared to write anywhere. Make sure to tell other people when you’re writing to minimize outside distractions.
4. Create compelling characters – characters are key to the story; they drive the plot. To have an interesting plot, you need an interesting character. The key is to understand your character’s motives, wants, and fears.
5. Finishing the first draft – the first thing you should do when you start NaNoWriMo is to turn off your inner editor. Don’t settle for perfection; after all, you can edit 50,000 words of garbage, but you can’t edit a blank page. One tip to turn off your inner editor is to change the text of your color to white so that you aren’t tempted to go back and edit.
6. Improving your craft – A quick pointer to improve your writing is to avoid info dumping which is when you give too much information at the same time. It bores readers and disrupts the flow of the narrative. You should also try to include at least 3 senses in your writing to help the reader visualize the world you’ve created. However, be wary of an excessive amount of purple prose, overly flowery language, which can get tiring for readers.
7. Writer’s block – when you’re stuck on a scene, just skip it. Write the scene that you’re inspired to write about. Another thing that could help is to write the scene using only dialogue. The most important thing to remember, though, is to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you skip a few days.
Overall, NaNoWriMo is an enjoyable experience and something that everyone who’s interested in writing should participate in. It may be challenging, but you can certainly learn a lot from it. Now go: write some magic.