I’m a loser. Hard to admit, but true. In November 2014, I joined NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which is, according to the website, “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” To win, you have to complete a 50,000-word first draft in the thirty days of November. The prize for finishing is finishing. I didn’t have much of a writing habit and little confidence that I would make it, but I thought, maybe I can set my own goal. How about 30,000 words? That seemed perfectly reasonable for a first-timer. I came up short on that, too, by about 6,000 words. Loser.
But something surprising happened. It was a huge breakthrough for me to make a commitment to write every day for a month. Even with the few days I didn’t actually put words on paper, I found I was well on my way to creating a middle-grades novel. And even more exciting, I was anxious to keep going. Maybe I’m not such a loser after all. This felt more like winning.
In 1999 a small group of twenty-somethings in San Francisco came together to create this event. Since then NaNoWriMo has grown to more than 300,000 international participants. This year on November 1, writers on six continents will begin a 50,000-word first draft to be completed by 11:59 p.m., November 30. Regional groups meet to write and keep each other energized in the process. In 2013, Gainesville had 181 novelists enrolled, many of them WAG members.
In my first sojourn into novel writing (I had only done short stories and articles before this), I knew I would confront several obstacles in addition to the looming task of writing 30,000 words. The first would be my lifelong procrastination habit. I’m one of those people who wait until just before deadline and then complete a task in a frenetic whirlwind of activity. You cannot write 50,000 words (or even just 30,000 words) in a few days, unless you decide not to eat, sleep, or tend to any other bodily or work-related functions. The second obstacle would be an out-of-town trip.
Signing up on the NaNoWriMo website was a tangible commitment to work at this. Since writers are encouraged to record a daily word count on the site, I was accountable. I’d rather write 250 words than enter a zero for that day. Online pep talks, seminars, virtual “badges” for reaching goals, and local write-in gatherings of participants added to the feeling of responsibility – to myself – as well as serving as inspiration to not quit.
To deal with the next obstacle, I bought a small, inexpensive PC with just enough programming to allow me to write while on my trip. An understanding husband who allowed me time alone in the hotel room to write was a bonus.
WAG will host Alachua County Librarians Gail Carr and Jennifer Kinser on Sunday, October 11, as a kickoff to NaNoWriMo. Jennifer is the regional liaison this year and has several activities planned for our area. Both they and guest panelist Hannah O’Neal are NaNoWriMo winners.
This year, I plan to complete the challenge. But even if I fall short of that 50,000-word goal, I will not be a loser. Taking the challenge makes me a winner.