30 Days. 50,000 words. Could You Do It?

by Elsa Stoff

For some, November is not just a month for giving thanks and eating your leftover Halloween candy.  It is dominated by the task of writing of 50,000 page novel.

This is because November is National Novel Writing Month. Most people have never heard of NaNoWriMo; however there is a relatively large number of people who choose to participate each year.  In 2008 120,000 writers attempted the feat, and 20,000 of them completed their novel.

Essentially, participants sign up for NaNoWriMo in the beginning of November through its official website, www.nanowrimo.org.  The website allows you to submit your word count throughout the month, and it tracks your progress.  It is a long, tedious, social interaction-lacking, and terrible writing month, but it is also well worth it and rewarding.

The end of October marks planning for NaNoWriMo.  It’s time to start thinking of a plot to write, and plan characters.  Research is done, but writing before November 1st does not count.  While it is true that nobody has any way of knowing if you cheat, it takes away from the sense of achievement, which is what you should be doing this for in the first place.

This begs a question.  Why participate in NaNoWriMo if our teachers are not forcing us to?  You do it solely because you like writing, and you want to write a novel but never got around to it.  This is the time when a writer is given a community to work among and deadlines.

It’s hard to start writing, and keep writing, if you have no incentive to write now. You could be writing later.  NaNoWriMo leaves you no option of when to write.  The answer is yes, you should be typing, or it won’t be finished by November 30th.  The goal is set, it needs to get done.

Since it just needs to get done, there definitely is no time to consider quality.  That aspect of writing diminishes as soon as you remember how many words you have to write each night to reach your goal. You will add extraneous adverbs, a page of description about your character’s neighbor’s dog, and circle around the plot to boost your word count.  It’s going to be bad, yet that’s what a first draft is.  Nobody can write a good first draft.  Think of all the scenes in your favorite books.  It is extremely likely that they all came from second, third ,or even later drafts of the book.  The first draft should be about discovering what’s there and what you have to work with.  You have to make yourself write that first draft so you can discover what else there is.

Writing a novel in a month is an extremely difficult feat, but for those who attempted, there’s always the knowledge that they were not the only ones.  The thousands of people across the nation who signed up could communicate with each other about their personal writing trials through various Internet forums.  One of these forums is also on the website that you signed up on, which sends you periodic emails of encouragement.

So what if a strong community to keep you writing isn’t enough?  There are many other strategies that can keep you writing.  Stockpile food for the month, and prizes to reward yourself with when you reach a writing goal.  Stop writing in the middle of an idea, so when you come back, you can jump right into the action.  Maybe you need to temporarily unplug your internet to draw you away from Facebook.  Whatever it takes, there are many methods to find your muse.

Finding time to write can be just hard as your homework, and equally painful.  As if our teachers don’t give us enough homework, you want to write a novel.   However, nothing can compare to knowing what you’ve accomplished at the end of the month.  You wrote bad prose, but imagine what your teachers will say when you tell them that you finished a 50,000 word novel over the weekend.  You will have something to show for it, too.  Just think…after avoiding contractions to boost your word count, you will have finally learned not to use them in your essays! Five hundred-page essays are nothing after this crazy month.

Go brag about it to everyone you know, because you wrote a novel.  National Novel Writing Month is important.  It encourages us to do something we never got around to.  It gives everyone a chance to be a novelist.

So what are you doing next November?

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