It’s that time of the year to disappear for a bit. November is National Novel Writing Month, an annual festival of carpal tunnel and obsessing over word counts. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word rough draft in a single month. It requires writing 1,667 words per day for thirty days. It’s not that the daily load is too heavy — it’s that once you set it down, it’s hard to pick it up again.
Missing one day means working hard to make up for it elsewhere. Falling behind leads to more falling behind. Distractions like social media interfere terribly with getting work done. You have to sacrifice short term and shallow gains in order to achieve something bigger and more lasting. In all of these ways NaNoWriMo is as much about learning our limits and how to forgo immediate self-gratification than it is just about writing.
And you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity. Many writers produce their best work while writing under pressure or for a deadline. This is the only way some writers get work done. For me, the compressed nature of the writing means I can’t leave the world I’m creating. When I’m away from my keyboard, I’m daydreaming about the story. It’s all I think about for a month. And so the plots can be more involved, the characters more alive, the world more real.
I invite all of you who write or dream about writing to join. It’s a global event, and it can change your life. Even if you just want to write about your past, your thoughts, or create a collection of poetry. Whatever small entertainments you have to set aside for the month, I promise you they’ll be there and waiting when you get back. Meanwhile, you’ll have created something that will last a lifetime. Something that will need a lot of editing come December.
24 replies to “NaNoWriMo 2014”
I was able to win last year because I wrote 20k the month before as a warmup and had a good outline for what I was going to do, but this year November snuck up on me and I’m completely unprepared. I think this year will be Nation Novel REWrite Month for me so I can finish my WIP(s). Luckily, I have a writing partner who will be doing NaNo for the first time, so hopefully we can keep each other on task.
Best of luck, everyone!
This will be my second year and I’m looking forward to another month long headache / good time.
This is my first year. I’m excited and terrified. I think the longest thing I have written was a team research paper in college and it was about 2500 words. I don’t know if i can do this, but I am going to do it anyway. Good luck to everyone!
I would be tempted to give it a try this year if I wasn’t in the middle of my WIP, but I’m not sure it would work for me anyway. Over the years I’ve developed a process of writing an outline on virtual index cards (Scrivener), then writing a very rough first draft (mostly dialogue, with minimal narrative), then a second draft to add the full narrative and tweet the dialogue, then additional drafts to address continuity issues, typos, and other problems.
So, if I’m writing a 60-65K novel, my first draft will come in at around 30K words. I guess I’d have to be working toward a 80-100K novel to have a 50K first draft.
Surely I’m not the only writer who works like this.
Thank you for encouraging writers to participate in NaNoWriMo. Last year was my first year and after writing 88k words in 30 days I couldn’t believe what I was able to accomplish. It carried over to an entire year of writing and now I am ready to do it again.
NaNoWriMo is more about building the good habit of writing daily so that you can use that new habit to write more the rest of the year.
Keep up the good work, and happy writing everyone!
This will be my fifth year. In addition to finally banging out a draft of a novel that’s been trapped in my brain for far too long, I have a good feeling that this is the time I’ll finally forge a writing habit that lasts year-round. I LOVE writing fiction, but once I stop it’s really difficult to overcome inertia and distractions so I can write the next story. So bring it on!
This is such an exciting month for all authors and people working with authors. I’ve been talking to a lot of editors lately, and half of them are actually taking part in NaNoWriMo.
The other half is just going to rest for a bit because they know of the huge workload they are going to get in December!
I wish writers all the best with this NaNoWriMo edition!
I whole-heartedly agree with the story immersion aspect of NaNoWriMo. However, I think the “only new words matter” goal is a perverse incentive that leads to putting off edits that are better addressed sooner rather than later. I’m not sure that there is an elegant alternative though.
It’s insightful to say that some people need a deadline. My wife definitely functions best that way, which I often lose sight of because deadlines don’t induce the best productivity out of me. As a result, we each have our own plans for the coming month.
Despite her motivational alignment with the deadline structure, my wife decided to not do a pseudo NaNoWriMo this year, because she feels like the social aspect becomes too distracting for her. To what degree do other people intend to be social with their NaNoWriMo, and who feels obligated to be social during NaNoWriMo?
I’m attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, with much trepidation I might add. To write 50K words in a month, I’ll have to go 4x to 5x my usual speed. I don’t quite know if this will kick me into a higher gear, or if I will crash and burn magnificently. We’ll find out soon!
Good luck to everyone!
I too have signed on for this year. It’s my first time. I’ve only written one novel and it took me like, three years, so I’m not terribly optimistic. I haven’t even decided what I want to write.
But I’m pretty excited anyway. This could be exactly what I need to electrify my writing.
I took part in Camp Nano in July. Wrote a 10K short story and published it on Amazon. Two short stories (and published) later, I’m about to partake in my very first NaNoWriMo. Just waiting for the clock to tick over to midnight to tear this up.
This is the first time I’ve ever heard of NaNoWriMo and I’m honestly tempted to try it out. I’ve done other month-long projects for different hobbies of mine but I didn’t consider it for writing. Considering it starts tomorrow and I only have a vague idea of my current story, I’m not sure if it’s a good idea though. Good luck to those participating!
Yes, Hugh. I heartily agree! Everyone should give Nanowrimo a crack! I’ve participated a number of times and it has been my best lesson in the discipline of writing. Sitting down everyday and just punching out some words – whether you feel like it or not, regardless of whether the Muse has taken her toothbrush and left you.
Good luck fellow Nanos!
Thanks for the encouragement, Hugh. It’s nice to know that a pro like you will be banging out words for this extraordinary event. So many people dismiss the whole idea, but it’s a terrific opportunity to start living your dreams instead of talking about them.
Totally! This is my sixth year. Everything I’ve written for previous NaNos has been published and has done quite well. I’d have written half the number of books by now without NaNo pushing me.
[…] It’s a global event, and it can change your life. Even if you just want to write about your past, … […]
Writers unite! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done to get motivated. Since the first year I signed on in 2011, I’ve written four books and on my way to publishing my third one. It really helps to get the momentum going and to establish a daily writing routine. The author community on their website is great. You can’t go wrong.
I completely agree! I am using NaNoWriMo this year to write the first draft of a contemporary romance novel (my first novel). I have written the first 5000 words for my Creative Writing degree but after putting it to one side for a few months I realise I have started my novel in the wrong scene. I am starting again from the beginning and I cannot wait!
[…] Hugh Howey, author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series, believes that writers who work well under pressure can turn out good quality manuscripts during NaNoWriMo. Whatever you turn out in November will need editing later. If writing a novel is not your goal and you use the time to write about your past or create poetry instead, he believes the experience can still change your life. […]
I first heard about NaNoWriMo last year on October 27. I signed up right away, then produced an outline over the next two days and started banging keys on November 1. The pressure and deadlines were what I needed, and I finished a story that, following a great deal of beta reading and revision, has become a relatively well-received novel that has sold more copies than I ever imagined it would. I’m so excited to be back at it this year, and my outline is so much more detailed and complete.
For me, NaNo was a great jumping off point for a year of learning about publishing, book construction, revision, and so many other aspects of being an author. Totally worth the time of anyone who love writing.
[…] NaNoWriMo 2014 | Hugh Howey […]
I’m in. I love the sense of community that comes with NaNoWriMo and the good lessons this event reinforces. Past events have taught me how to write every day and demonstrated what can be accomplished by the consistency of applied effort. Turns out the old saw about eating an elephant once bite at a time is actually true. The other realization was that a “bad” writing session is better than no writing session at all. It’s OK if some writing turns out to be fertilizer, a pile of dung out of which good thing will grow (on rewrite!) This is infinitely better than a blank screen and a blinking cursor.
Happy writing everyone. Enjoy!
My first NaNo was 2008. I’ve won from 2009 onward. It’s a compulsion at this point. ;) Can’t not participate.
I finished my first novel during NaNoWriMo 2007 and then I completed three additional ones during NaNo2012, a month during that coming summer (my own NaNo), and then in NaNo2013. I simply cannot not do it!!!
I know how it feels to not be able leave the world I am creating during a 30 day window of writing madness! The coolest part for me? Exploring the world as it unfolds at the crazy pace I write during that time and the surprises my characters lead me to.
Good luck to all that are participating!