Next Friday, November 1st, is the start of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month (NaNo for short.) It’s been around since 1999 when only 21 people participated but this year, over 140,000 writers have signed up. The purpose of NaNo is to write at least 50,000 words during the month of November.
I’ve never participated in NaNo and felt this year was a good time to start. I’ve got a novel I’ve wanted to write for over 2 years and have been doing lots of research for it. While the research is crucial for my understanding of the history of the time period I’m setting the book in, I have hidden behind it. I’ve been too afraid to actually tackle writing it. I have good excuses I tell myself. I’m a new writer so I need to practice more with short stories before I write a novel, right? Oh, my research has turned up something that I think might be good to explore but I’ll need to do even more research. I don’t want to make a mistake since I do have a degree in history.
What also hasn’t helped is I’ve changed the plot a gazillion times. Officially I’ve done 4 outlines. The last one I did was sometime summer of 2012. Since then, though, I’ve added a lot of notes about plot. Snippets of color-coded paper. Notes stored in EverNote. Notes stored in a Word file. I’m organized but not despite a tri-fold board filled with slips of paper listing historical people, events, and places to help keep me straight on the facts.
Now that I have less than a week before the start of NaNo, I am starting to panic. The time has flown since I made the decision back in the summer to do NaNo. I thought I was giving myself plenty of time to do as much research as possible, work on developing characters sheets, and quasi-finalizing an outline. Ahhh but life got in the way. In the midst of all of the prep work, my spouse was interviewing for a new job which he got. The catch: it’s across the country. Now we are in the midst of selling our house so who knows when it will sell (quickly I hope!) so time has been lost dealing with a huge life change. Then all of a sudden it was mid-October and I had yet to do any real prep work for NaNo.
But from what I’ve been reading on the forums on NaNo’s website, that’s okay. Lots of people are first time NaNo participants. Some are working on outlines, some aren’t, and some aren’t even sure yet what they are going to write. Reading words of wisdom from veteran participants has put my mind at ease. Just a little. The closer the calendar gets to November 1st, the more the realization of what I’m about to embark upon gets larger.
I’m not alone, though, as NaNo encourages people to join a home region within their state or country as a means of connecting writers. Ideally each region will have a leader, ML they are called, whose job is to organize the kick-off party on November 1st and subsequent write-in sessions. Write-in sessions are in person gatherings where writers get together and well, write. Writing is a solitary sport but sometimes a group of writers just need to get together. I’m guessing that creative energy gives a writer a needed boost. So while I don’t know any of the other people in my region, I’m looking forward to meeting them.
Throughout the month of November, I’ll be providing updates on my progress towards that 50,000 word goal as well as what it feels like to be a first-time participant. Scary but I am hopeful it will be a great learning experience and yes, even a bit fun.