It’s here, folks. October. The month where Fall truly begins, the month of cosplay and Halloween, the month of great weather and food that is unnecessarily flavored with pumpkin spice. For the past few years, October has also represented the month where I plan my next NaNoWriMo novel.
Let’s talk about NaNoWriMo itself for a sec- why do I bother? Any good writer should be able to pump out a novel any month they choose, right? And yeah, we know NaNo is full of inexperienced hacks who think a high word count = a novel they can send to an agent on December 1st. Why would any legitimate writer want to associate themself with an amateur hour like NaNo?
Personally, I enjoy participating in a well-known, organized, public challenge. Think of it this way – a common goal for many people is to run a marathon. In order to achieve it, you have to slowly work yourself up to running 26.22 miles, which means you probably have to run a marathon on a treadmill or around your neighborhood before you can compete in an official one. Or at least, you have to know you can get really close. “I know I can run 10 miles, so I can probably run a marathon” won’t cut it.
So if you run almost 26 miles around the block, why aren’t you satisfied? Why does it not feel official? You’ve accomplished it right? You ran the length of a marathon. But that’s not the important part. The important part is being there alongside everyone else. Waking up early to get to the start line, cheering as everyone runs across the start together, pushing it out for 26.22 miles where everyone can see you, and then hearing the cheers when you cross the finish line. Having a physical, solid, official finish line to cross. That’s when you feel you can tick that box on your bucket list.
Now, it’s a little different with writing novels. If you complete a novel during any time of the year, you still feel pretty accomplished. But ideally, it takes me about a year to write a novel, edit it, and get it potentially publishable. Why not start that year every November? Because that’s what NaNo really is for me – a start on a new project. A start that I cannot delay or avoid. November 1st is going to come and I can either hop on the bandwagon and get going, or I can keep pushing it off until I’m done with Paradisa, which will be at least another six months.
I also like to challenge myself a little bit farther every year. My first NaNo was in 2010, when I was in the midst of Organic Chemistry and Calculus II. I got to 35,000 words and lost. My first successful NaNo was in 2012, when I just eked past 50,000 words. Last year, I resolved to write 100,000 words – actually completing a novel instead of half a novel. I believe I got to 70,000, which was still pretty impressive. This year, I think my goal is going to be 75,000, which should be the completed version of the novel I’m outlining. I’m a little afraid of how short this story might turn out, but this might also be one that I consider self-publishing. So word count may not be as crucial.
I also like the prizes NaNo offers. And NaNo’s word count and statistics software are top-notch. I really wish it was available all year. Tracking words in a spreadsheet myself just isn’t the same.
Plus, I don’t think there’s shame in needing a little bit of peer pressure to get the gears turning. You certainly shouldn’t pump out 50,000 every November and then never look at them again, or abandon being a writer for the other 11 months. Ultimately, we should write because we love it, and that’s why we’re participating in NaNo in the first place. But I dunno…I find it very fun. I don’t participate in the write-ins or the forums, but I keep tabs on my friends who are doing it. H.K. Rowe and I have NaNo’d together for many years. It’s sort of tradition at this point.
But, as you all know, I’m a plotter. So October is training month for me. It’s the month where I brainstorm and throw down all my thoughts into a legal pad and try to make sense of it. That way, on November 1st, I’m ready for the marathon. Lehgo!