National Novel Writing Month – Unleashing the Novel or Miserable Failure Within You

People watch television, movies, read books and think: “Wow, that was totally miserable. If I was the director / writer / producer (or what have you) I would have done THIS (insert impractical / masterful / creative / poorly thought out idea here).” But rarely do these people take the initiative to put their ideas down on paper. Because let’s face it, writing can be difficult. It takes time, and time is a commodity that is invaluable. People don’t have time to write twelve months out of the year. But one month. . . one month may be doable! And that is why the internet sensation know as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was born. With it’s motto “thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write a short novel, just 50,000 words, in 30 days, a mere 1,666 words per day.

Screen shot 2012-11-25 at 8.44.50 PMNaNoWriMo was started by Chris Baty of San Francisco in 1999. It was meant “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather,” and in it’s beginnings, only had 21 participants. Soon he developed a website to keep track of each participant’s novel writing, and the popularity of the even took off: in 2010, over 200,000 people signed up for the event. I found most of this information from the National Novel Writing Month official website and its wikipedia so you can continue to learn about the event if you so choose.

I thought I would give the event a try. Ideas are constantly cooking in the ole noodle of mine, so I thought I would finally take advantage of the opportunity to motivate myself to spill those ideas onto paper. Or a screen, I guess.

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a miserable failure. Doing anything thirty days in a row is difficult, save maybe brushing your teeth or breathing, and sitting down to write 1,666 words is no exception. After signing up, I sat down and got to work. And by got to work, I mean I stared at a blank document for a few minutes. You can’t force inspiration I guess. So I said to myself: “no worries Cody – you’ve got 29 more days ahead of you, so you are bound to find success. And tomorrow’s a great day to start finding it!” Well tomorrow came and tomorrow went, and then a few more tomorrow’s came, and I found myself at about 4,000 words. That’s 8% for all you mathematicians keeping track at home. So like any uninspired NaNoWriMo participant, I headed to the community forums.

Screen shot 2012-11-27 at 5.13.54 PMThese forums allow a user to feel like the event is happening live, in person – human interaction. And these forums are a literary haven. There were places to share your plot and allow critiquing by other contestants, places to share your characters, places to celebrate, all kinds of places. My semi-crippling social anxiety did not allow me to post on these forums myself, but I was able to peruse the forums for ideas and just read other people’s problems to make me feel better about my own. Even better, the forum was incredibly friendly, as there didn’t seem to be any trolls, swamp donkeys, or gnar-ogres of the like. Just genuine advice from a community genuinely interested in writing.

Screen shot 2012-11-27 at 5.14.21 PM

And now, at the end of November, I find myself with just over 6,000 words, and, as I alluded to earlier, an incredible failure. But the experience was enriching, at least. It gave me a real appreciation for the author’s who are expected to pump out bi-yearly stories. They’re under immense pressure to get it done, and their stories are typically twice as long as the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. I guess that’s why they’re paid to do it. But I suppose it also would have helped me out if NaNoWriMo was in, say, July. That way, it wasn’t competing with school, or really anything for that matter.

I may not have finished a book, or even a 15% of one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. I would highly recommend to aspiring writers to participate in the event next year. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up getting the book you write published like Sarah Gruen, as she wrote her award winning book, Water For Elephants, participating in NaNoWriMo.


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