November is just around the corner, and we writers know what that means. Yes, the all-important Nov. 3rd (please vote!!), but also that exhilarating, frustrating, triumphant, despairing roller coaster of National Novel Writing Month, a/k/a NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy 30 days, and we’re buckled in and ready–but are some of us clinging a little too tightly to the safety bar?
No, NaNoWriMo isn’t scary—for most of us, anyway. It’s all about letting go—and allowing 50,000 words to not-so-magically appear in your new novel in 30 long or short days, depending on how you look at things. Writers input their daily word count into a built-in calculator, and presto! Instant recognition of your progress on a handy-dandy progress chart. With a suggested goal of 50,000 words, that’s a mere 1666.66667 words per day. Yay! (Or…ouch.) Plus, you can earn badges along the way, just like Girl Scouts. Here’s the one you get when you sign up:
The word count is cumulative, so you can write however many words your little heart desires each day, even zero (not recommended, trust me on that). But by the time November 30th lurches around, the election should be over and you will have 50,000 words completed on a spanking new manuscript. That’s a pretty decent chunk, right? And if you need encouragement or want to discuss your progress or lack thereof with other writers, there are virtual forums right on the site to share cheers and group sprints and write-ins.
NaNoWriMo, an international nonprofit, used to sponsor a live event called The Night of Writing Dangerously, which was celebrated first in San Francisco and then in far-flung locales around the world. Writers showed up in person with their laptops and notepads, and NaNo provided the food/snacks, prizes, and silent community. This year things will be a little different, of course, but hey, you can make every night dangerous in the literary sense. In your jammies.
NaNo isn’t supposed to be stressful, of course. It’s fun as well as productive. Writers can choose their own word count goals and set their own writing schedules. They can write at the crack of dawn (noooo, thank you) or anytime until the stroke of midnight (hey, keep going!). But the point is: DON’T EVER GIVE UP!!!!!
By the time you’ve typed The End, you can collapse and take the rest of the year off. Just kidding: You can’t, because by then you’ll be on to revising and editing. But it is 2020, after all, so maybe you’ve already earned a teensy break.
Speaking of this annus horribilis, the NaNo poster for this banner year is for sale online, and it’s really quite lovely. But to avoid pushing my luck on the risk thing, I am sticking with the one for 2019, which is framed in my office. Here they are, for comparison. 2020 looks harder, lol:
Prepping for NaNo is a lot like getting ready for prom. Sometimes it’s the best part. There are plenty of resources on the NaNoWriMo site to help you get started on your opus. So far, I’ve prepped by bringing out a few of my regular comfort items, and added a few new ones, like a folding laptop stand (which tends to collapse just as I’m typing something particularly brilliant) and huge, red Harry Caray glasses that are supposed to block out evil blue light rays but just make my hubby snicker. And yes, I was taking a quick YouTube break here:
And, of course, here are my trusty implement holder–the unfortunate Dead Fred–and an assortment of helpful pencils gifted by my kids last Christmas (note that I have pre-selected “Try vodka.”) The Chicks coaster/inspiration piece was a present from our CBFF Hestia Athena.
I am also trying hard to enthuse my lucky muse Lucy. So far, so snooze.
But who knows, NaNo 2020 may be just the year for us more cautious writers to come out of our comfort zones and take a few (non-health-related) risks. Start that novel, try a new genre, query your ms. or take the plunge and go indie.
Because sometimes you just gotta say what the (heck). Time of your life, huh, kid?
Writers and readers, start your keyboard: Who’s in for NaNo this year–and who’s riding 2020 out with a ms.-in-progress or a good book?