Last year, a colleague introduced me to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Each November, over 300,000 people worldwide attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That works out to 1,667 words per day, every day for 30 days. The four day weekend that is Thanksgiving falls in November, last year ending on November 30. We drive ten hours each way to spend the holiday with family.
I was reluctant to participate because I’m highly competitive and I wasn’t comfortable making a commitment like that and not finishing. I also knew that besides Thanksgiving, I was going to be out of town for two weeks. I could write a lot of that time, but some of it was vacation and I had to take the rest of my family into consideration. Still, in early October, I took the plunge and signed up for NaNoWriMo. Then I left for a weeklong conference.
As I found out later, of the 300,000 who sign on, approximately 12-14% actually get to 50,000 words. People who do finish are considered winners. I knew that not everyone made it, but I’m glad I didn’t know the success rate was as low as it is. I think I might have given myself permission to not finish. As it was, I didn’t consider coming up short an option. (Note to self: forget those statistics for next time!)
Once I made the commitment, I had to figure out what I was doing. Writers will tell you there are essentially two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters plan ahead, figuring out how the story will go, preparing character studies, determining settings, and creating an outline. On the other hand, maybe they have a vague idea of their story or a character whispering in their ear, but mostly pantsers sit down to write ‘by the seat of their pants.’
People who know me realize I would be a plotter. Unfortunately, the schedule I committed to did not afford me the luxury of a month or more of planning. I had the beginning of a story idea and some characters and some scenes in mind. Mostly, though, I would be writing by the seat of my pants. At the end of November, I hoped to have a 50,000 word rough draft. A very rough draft, but at least a start.
For more information about NaNoWriMo, visit nanowrimo.org.