National Novel Writing Month is about to begin, and this year thousands of writers from around the world will commit to writing an entire novel – 50,000 words – in just one month.
This epic challenge was designed to inspire and spur on both amateurs and professionals. The only requirement is that you show up and take part, and at the end of it all you’ll not only have a completed draft of your masterpiece but also a certificate of achievement. Runners have marathons – writers have NaNoWriMo.
How it works
Whether you’re a professional writer, have a story idea or have always had a secret burning desire to put pen to paper, National Novel Writing Month – affectionately known as NaNoWriMo – is open to all.
The concept is simple: commit to writing a minimum of 50,000 words – the length of a short novel – over the course of November. The object here is not quality but quantity; it’s an exercise that encourages new and experienced writers to get that difficult first draft down on paper in its roughest form so you can continue pushing forward and polishing your project once NaNoWriMo is done.
The programme is free, and to get involved all you have to do is sign up on the website. You can meet a community of other writers from around the world who are also taking part as well as get support and helpful hints from people who have done it before. At the end of the month, you will paste the full text of your novel into the website to verify you’ve completed it. Once that’s finished you’ll be awarded a shiny certificate adding you to a special group of people who also completed their novels, and not to mention the pride of finishing such a gargantuan task.
Tips to help you try it
They say the simplest things to do are also the simplest not to do, and that is especially true of making time to write. The reality of penning a novel or memoir is that it’s not glamorous; in reality it involves a lot of time sitting on your own thinking and working out how to tell a story the best way you can. Your best chance for success is to schedule time to write and then stick to it. You can do it in the morning before work, in the evening after everyone is asleep, or somewhere in between – all that matters is you find time to write and when it comes you sit down and commit to it whether the inspiration is there or not.
Find an idea you love
Writing is hard work, and you’ll quickly lose steam if you aren’t working with an idea you love. It’s okay if you don’t have all the details worked out yet, or aren’t quite sure how the story will end – that’s what your first draft is for. The most important thing in the early stages is to create a story you enjoy and will be inspired to keep writing.
Get to know your characters
Stories are pushed forward by their characters. One of the most valuable things you can do in the planning stages before you begin your draft is getting to know who your characters are – what their personalities and preferences are, their histories and their behaviours. Try and think of the characters in your story as real people, and with that in mind develop some background information about them. Even if this work doesn’t make it directly into the story, indirectly it will help make your characters more memorable and bring your novel to life in vivid detail.
So tell us: Will you sign up for National Novel Writing Month? Have you ever tried to write before?