NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

There. I did it. I pushed the little sign up button on the NaNoWriMo page and now I’m basically committed to writing a 50,000 word novel next month. Hoo boy.

Part of me is really excited about the challenge, and another part is wondering what the hell the first part is thinking. First of all, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of other projects on the table, or more productive things that I could be doing with my time. Second, 50K is a really big number. Big enough that I can’t really picture it in my head. Third, I’m taking a week off in November to attend a conference, and I’ll be too busy absorbing conference stuff during that week to write much, so I’m already missing a quarter of the time that people have to write. I went to the NaNo forum, and unlike (it seems) many of the people posting there, I don’t feel compelled to write all the time (unless you count journaling, and I don’t). I don’t have a story bursting inside me that needs to be told. In fact, I don’t relate to ANY of the items on the “Are you a serious writer” thread. “Would rather write a scene with two main characters having sex than have it” – are you NUTS?

Wait, what is this about?

National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to devote the time to write 50K words that all point in the same direction. 50K words amounts to a short novel, but apparently, it’s a good goal to shoot for. According to the website, last year, in 2008, they had an all-time high completion rate of 18%, of a total of 119,301 participants from around the world, so it’s difficult, but not impossible. There’s a website where you can enter your word-count, and if you make it to 50K, you win. There aren’t any big prizes on the table, so even though it would be impossibly easy to cheat, there isn’t really any point to it. It’s all about personal satisfaction. And bragging rights, if you’re into that.

That said, I was surprised to find out that the National Best-Seller, Water for Elephants, started out as a NaNoWriMo novel, and the media kit has a decent list of published authors who participate. With nearly 120K participants last year, and growing, at least I have a lot of company in this craziness.

So, why am I doing this?


Tom and I picked up the No Plot? No Problem! book a few years ago, and there were two things about the event that caught in my head, and have been rubbing around in there since then. The first is: that it’s all about word count, not quality. No one ever has to see what I’ve written (don’t even bother asking to see it – the answer is no), so it’s a great opportunity to try to shake my somewhat overactive personal editor and just type. That sounded like an interesting exercise. You could even take it as personal development, if you wanted to.

The second thing is that these writers talk about having characters come to life and direct the story. That seemed like an interesting experience too. One that might be fun to have.

That’s it. I’m not sure that these two things make up for the vast array of reasons to do something else with my time in November, but I pushed the little button. I might as well enjoy the ride.