NaNoWriMo: Possible or Insanity


I have to admit, I have attempted NaNoWriMo only once.

For those of you who have somehow missed the phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  During the month of November, each participant commits to drafting a 50,000 word novel.  No, you can’t rewrite something you’ve already written.  No, this isn’t the time to finish up something you’ve started.  When you sign up, you are committing to draft at least 50,000 words of a NEW novel.

If you’re a children’s writer, this looks like a lofty goal.  Yes, many young adult novels are this long but a lot of what we write is much shorter.  The nonfiction books I write for Red Line Editorial are 14,500 words, less than half this length.  In fact, the longest single manuscript I have in my files is 35,000 words.  Maybe that’s why when I did give it a whirl I didn’t commit as seriously as I might have.

A lot of my friends do it so I commited to give it a try.  Yep.  That’s a ringing endorsement and sounds like something a teen character might say.  “Well, my friends were all doing it officer.”  Ah, well.  Dip that I am, a few years ago I decided to give it a shot.  I’d love to say that I did wonderfully and finished a full draft, but it isn’t true.  I fizzled out about half way through the month.

Part of the problem was that I have never done anything long enough fast enough to make me believe it is possible.  Yeah, I was giving it a try but I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea.  When things got tough, it wasn’t all that hard to derail me.

In addition to not commiting emotionally, I was also coming off several major deadlines.  I got everything done that was due in October and another deadline for November. By November 1, I had the month clear to work on my project.  But I hadn’t done any prep work.  I don’t do a lot of outlining with fiction so this didn’t worry me, but it also meant that I didn’t really have a plan.

Now, that I’m working on my second book for Red Line, I know better.  I will get this book done in 8 weeks.  That includes research, outlining, writing and two or three rewrites.  Yes, it’s only 14,500 words but this is finished copy.  NaNoWriMo is a rough draft.  I can take this project from start to finish because, before I fall into writing, I do my prepwork.  I know what I’m writing about.  I’ve got a plan.  I can write and write hard because I know where I’m going.  I finish a full draft in less than two weeks.

That,in my opinion, is the key to a successful NaNoWriMo.  For more on what this writing plan entails, see my post for tomorrow at the Muffin.