Last night, All Hallows Eve I stayed up late to welcome in The Witching Hour. Was I awaiting the arrival of the Dark Ones from the Forbidden Plane? Or conjuring spirits from the grave? A possibility… but no.
I was gearing up for the kick-off of the international event National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). Nanowrimo is a yearly online event where amateur and professional writers try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
It is also a non-profit organisation which through The Young Writers Program promotes creative literacy to children, The Come Write In Program provides free resources to libraries, community centres, and local bookstores, and Camp NaNoWriMo provides a virtual writing retreat and resources for writing projects.
I first stumbled into this insane yet strangely fun challenge some 8 years ago through Neil Gaiman’s journal. Awaiting the start of November I thought I had set myself an impossible goal; 50k in 30 days sounded crazy. I had only a rough plan for my novel and the daily word target of 1667 to guide me on my way. After a month of mad typing, berating myself for my lack of talent, then shouting some more at myself to shut up and get on with the writing, I reached the 50K goal. (That critical voice I have come to know well isn’t actually mine, but that of The Evil Inner Editor. I am sure I will have plenty to say about that harridan sometime this coming month.)
The next year, realising this wasn’t as difficult as expected, I decided I would try pantsing it (writing with little/ no planning), and could allow myself to spend some time on the forums. Here participants share advice, talk through issues and cheer each other on to reach the 50K goal. I ended up spending more time chatting about writing than actually writing. Tellingly most of my time was spent in the ‘Nanowrimo Ate My Soul’ lounge. However, this was not a mistake, I may have failed to reach the target, but I had a great time being part of a community of writers and found a way to make an often solitary activity sociable.
Since then I have rationed my time on the forums, ensuring I reach my daily word-count before I venture into the time sump that is the online community. I have also kept to the regional forums where you don’t get a million people replying to your every post.
Over the past 8 years I have had a mixed bag of Nanowrimo experiences; years when I have planned my novel and still lost; years when I’ve pantsed it and still won. No matter if I’ve won or lost, I have always had fun going through this strangely addictive insanity, getting some more words written than I would have otherwise, and sharing this all with my writing buddies.
Word-count: 465 words written in the 10 minute midnight word-sprint before I fell asleep.