Will ‘National Novel Writing Month’ bring out the writer in you?

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national novel writing month, fingers on old typewriter

In a matter of hours, the month of October will be over. You know what that means, right? National Novel Writing Month. On November 1, hundreds of thousands of novelists and would-be novelists across the country accept the challenge to write a novel in 30 days.

To officially complete the challenge and “win,” a writer must write 50,000 words, about 1,667 words a day. Now 50,000 words may not be enough to count as a complete novel, unless you are writing for middle graders or young adults, but it’s a darn good start. And it is incredible incentive for those of us in the habit of saying, “Someday, I’ll write a book!”

What is NaNoWriMo?

I finished NaNoWriMo once. It was 2014, and I had just completed my Master’s degree in liberal arts and writing for children and young adults. I was teaching a fundamental writing course at the community college, and that was draining the life out of my soul. So I decided to try the challenge. Besides, I had a good idea for a story I had been wanting to tell. I went to the website and signed up.

The website for NaNoWriMo is amazing. Each day you enter the text you have written, and it calculates your word total, tallies how many words you have left to reach your goal, and recalculates your minimum daily word count. It also offers incentives for various achievements and a forum where you can meet up with other Wrimos. These are among the most supportive and encouraging writers you can hope to have by your virtual side.

When you’re finished, you’re just beginning

I reached my goal with two days to spare. It was a tremendously satisfying experience, but I was so embarrassed by what I had written that I never looked at it again. I completely blew off “Edit December,” which logically follows a month of free-form writing. Yes, it’s true that the founders of National Novel Writing Month encourage writers to write without any revision or proofreading along the way. In fact, some writers take this so seriously that they change the color of their font to white so they can’t see what they are writing.

That’s not my style. As much as I enjoy writing, editing and revising are my gift. Sadly, this is not true for all who participate in National Novel Writing Month. In fact, I have heard that book publishers cringe when November is over because they know they will receive a barrage of manuscripts from Wrimos who believe that just because they have written 50,000 words, they have a saleable novel. Editing and revising are 80% of the writing process.

Are you up for the challenge?

My daughters are artists, not writers. They have enjoyed this year’s Inktober, which challenged them to draw a picture based on a daily theme. Their creativity awed me, and it made me hungry for a challenge of my own. But I don’t know if National Novel Writing Month is for me this year. Things are different now. My job involves writing every day. Some days I write 6,000 words, although they would make a pretty dull novel.

The year after I completed my first NaNoWriMo, I tried again, but barely wrote 5,200 words. The following year, I hit 2,412 before I quit. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a novel in me. I might not be ready for this November, but someday!

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