As November approaches, many fiction writers anticipate the first day of the month with joy and trepidation. November is National Novel Writing Month.
What does that mean? It means you, as a fiction writer, have one month to produce at least 50,000 words of a first draft for a novel. You can participate anonymously, or you can officially sign up at http://www.nanowrimo.org. If you choose to sign up officially, you get a neat little certificate of participation at the end of the month, should you happen to achieve the word count. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done.
Nanowrimo was started as a challenge for fiction writers and as a way to unblock the creative juices by removing concerns about plot, structure, characters and even that pesky little grammar issue that a final draft must have perfected. The emphasis is on production, to simply do it and sweat the small stuff later. One might assume that such a crazy method would not work, that the end result must be a total hash of barely literate work, and it very well might be, but at least by the end you have a rough draft of a novel-length work to play with for the following eleven months. The point of NanoWrimo is to get writers writing.
So often, we find ourselves reaching a block when a particular element of storytelling is not going as we have envisioned. Contradictions appear between character development and plot arch, or maybe the scene you are trying to describe sounds more like a day at the circus rather than a rush toward battle. Or perhaps your sentences have simply lost their eloquence, their panache, their joie de vivre. NanoWrimo is an opportunity to say, “To heck with all of that. I’m just gonna write and see what shakes out.”
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Last year was my first year with NanoWrimo, and I was skeptical at first, but lo and behold, at the end of the experience I had a fully formed first draft of a novel! I am still working on it, but the story itself is complete. If you dare to sign up for NanoWrimo, there are a few things to be prepared for, make sure you have plenty of coffee at hand and warn your friends and neighbors. The ride is exhilarating, but like all the best roller-coasters, you will have your ups and downs.