I started doing NaNoWrimo pre-aughts, maybe 1999? My buddy and I, two writers adrift in a sea of mutual funds boredom (at least on my part; I mean, he’s an accountant, so I think he likes numbers as well as letters; I’m more of a letters kind of dork though) — we decided to try this weird new thing, to write a novel in a month, OMG,
…and this was pre-OMG, nobody texted anything then.
It’s been an off and on flirtation since then, but I credit NNWM with establishing my writing habits. Thanks, Office of Letters and Light! In those days, I’d show up at work 2 hours early, camp in the caf with a cup of corner store coffee, and scribble until everyone in my department started filing in for their morning vending-machine muffin. I got up earlier and earlier, until I was waking up at 5 a.m. because the story just wouldn’t shut up.
15+ years later, I like to sleep in, so I reserve only one hour for writing in the morning, and the coffee is much better, but the pattern is the same. I start the day writing the story, spend idle moments in the day thinking the story, and then come back to it after work, to re-read the morning’s writing and pen maybe 500 more words before dinner.
- Caveat: you may end up with twenty first drafts and zero second drafts.
- Bonus: you may need to write twenty shitty first drafts to get to the one story you can bear to write the second through fiftieth drafts of.
For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, established by the nonprofit organization to promote literary pursuits, specifically by challenging participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days flat. Yikes! Awesome! [pro tip: depending on which of these reactions you just had to that sentence, you’ll know whether you want to give it a try.]
- For your information, I am hbt003, and you can buddy me if you want to write together and razz one another about our word counts.
This year, I started by planning to write a Moby Dick retelling from Pip’s POV with a modern twist, and so far I’ve written a LFTR PLLR ripoff chapter (day one), a Fight Club ripoff chapter (day two), and 1,000 words of Amy Schumer-inspired satire (today). Basically, this is a novel jumbled with all the things floating around in my consciousness. No worries, I’ll sort it all out later. That’s what we NNWMers do in December.
I’m writing with an IRL group this time, one I started at my library. We meet once a week to bitch about writing and share advice about writing and then, y’know, actually write for an hour at minimum. Day three: so far it’s fabulous. Stick around and try to pinpoint the moment when it gets grueling. But for now, JOY.
The main reason to start NaNoWriMo is that it’s fun. And maybe-just-maybe it will establish a writing practice that you continue. But don’t focus on that just yet. Go with it, write a terrible first draft, and see what happens. Vive l’écriture!