Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coming to Grips with Nanowrimo

It's that time of year again -- mid- to the end of October, when lunatic writers everywhere start to gear up for National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo to those in the know). Nanowrimo is the ultimate writers' marathon -- the rush to write 50,000 words of an original novel in -- gasp! -- THIRTY DAYS.

Do they have to be good? Hell, no. Getting them all in the right language is considered more than good enough.

But do they have to be 50,000? To win Nano, yes. (Winning means uploading your file with 50,000+ words in it -- Nano's own official counter counts the words and certifies you as a winner.)

What do winners get? Forget a Rolls Royce. Or an agent panting to represent you. Hell, forget even garnering respect. You get a few little downloadable goodies from the Nano website -- www.nanowrimo.org -- and a really good feeling.

And you know what? For most of us, that's a perfectly reasonable exchange.

Because just to know you're CAPABLE of putting 50,000 words -- of any length -- on paper in 30 days is a HUGE accomplishment. That's roughly 1,700 words per day -- for 30 solid days.

Truth is, even LOSING Nano is an accomplishment. Ending with 40,000 words -- or 30,000 -- even 500 after a solid month of trying -- is still more words than you had in October, isn't it? And it proves you can really knock it out with the best of them, when you want to. It puts you seven leagues ahead of writer wannabes who whine about how hard it is and do absolutely nothing to accomplish it.

Last year, my 12-year-old son tried Nano for the first time, and wrote 3,000 words total. (He lost interest fairly early on, or I'll bet the word count would have been a lot higher.) But when I read over his pages, I was amazed: This was good writing, really good, thoughtful writing. Better than anything he'd written for a school assignment.

Doing Nano did wonders for his confidence and self-esteem. I'm thrilled that he wants to do it again this year. And I told him so, both last November and several times since: I was so proud of what he did, especially in taking on such a challenge.

I've done Nano 3 times -- 2005, 2006, 2007. Each time I crossed the finish line with 50,000 + words. Each time I had a piece I was justifiably proud of -- something that hadn't existed before the mad rush of November, except in my mind, and that once captured in black and white, proved I had actually internalized a few things about the craft of writing, over the years.

Better yet -- Nano is a great time to knock out something I've been procrastinating about. It's the no-excuse, no-time-for-looking-back time of year when all that matters is the exhilarating rush of pushing those computer keys as fast as possible. Who cares if you write "prolific" when you mean "profligate"? Nobody!

It's just getting it down that matters.

For most of us, that's where we lose it as writers. Getting it down on the page is where we fail.

Nanowrimo takes that issue away from you, even as it provides you a global support community of other writers all pumping out their own less-than-masterpieces. Just putting it down, good or bad, is what counts.

Oh, and the words, of course. The words count, big-time. (I never use the word count feature of MS Word as much at any other time of the year.)

Try Nanowrimo, if you want the ultimate writers' rush (I swear, it's even better than winning a literary contest or selling a book.) Do it fast; do it dirty; get it done and be proud.

Yep -- I'm ready for sweet November.

1 comment:

Lynette Hall Hampton said...

I've been thinking about giving it a try this year, Susan. You've convinced me. Lynette