Write a novel in thirty days with NaNoWriMo

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Have you ever wanted to write a novel? I have. I have wanted to write a novel since I was a teenager. It has been a long term goal, over twenty years in the making. In November 2013, I finally did it with the help of NaNoWriMo.

I have written plays, I have written film scripts, I have written poems and I have started writing a novel before, but I have never come this close to actually writing a decent amount of plot towards a novel, until now. Yesterday (27 November 2013), at 6.30pm, I became a NaNoWriMo winner!

If you have a novel bursting to come out of your imagination, you too can be a NaNoWriMo winner – its coming up again this November.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NANOWRIMO logo

National Novel Writing Month hosted in November every year. Last year there were over 518 ,538 participants who signed up to write a minimum of 50,000 words in a month – Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit). It promotes a fun way in which to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days during the month of November. NaNoWriMo was established in 1999, and now has over a quarter of a million active participants from all over the world.

When I first heard about NaNoWriMo, I was hanging out in a chat room with a group of online text based role-playing friends. Most of these friends live in the USA where NaNoWriMo is based. They were getting excited about the national novel writing competition that was about to begin.

I was jealous! I love writing competitions. For me, participating in writing competitions has always provided that little extra push to write, instead of procrastinating.

Twelve months later, I realise my jealousy was very misplaced. Thanks to my friend, Sami who has participated in NaNoWriMo multiple times, I no longer have the misconception that NaNoWriMo is just a competition for USA citizens, but a competition for anyone with internet access who wants to write a novel.

Preparing to be a NaNoWriMo Winner

The strategy for NaNoWriMo is pretty straight forward. It includes:

  1. sign up to get access to a dashboard account
  2. add a little information about your proposed novel
  3. start writing from November 1st
  4. update your word count
  5. read, watch, listen to regular pep talks from authors
  6. participate in local community NaNoWriMo events
  7. validate your novel to win

Three useful tools I discovered to help me write

I have tried writing a novel (three novels actually), before NaNoWriMo. I have even managed to write more than a synopsis and first chapter, but I have never reached my goal of having a decent first draft.

NaNoWriMo Dashboard

NaNoWriMo Dashboard

Here are three wonderful tools I discovered while completing NaNoWriMo to help me achieve this goal:

  1. Author Pep Talks – At first, I was a little apprehensive when it came to reading the author pep talks. Being overweight and reading about eating lots of chocolate to keep you motivated, is not the sort of pep talk you may want to read. But, I found the pep talk really mattered when it came to the point in my novel where I found it hard to keep writing and much easier to procrastinate. For me, that was around the 30,000 word mark. Having regular pep talks to refer to throughout the month, did inspire me to keep writing. It even gave me ideas on what, and how to write my next scene.
  2. NaNoWriMo Dashboard – The NaNoWriMo dashboard is a brilliant tool for self motivation. If you are someone who likes to visually see where you are in achieving your writing goal, then the dashboard contains a statistic page where you can validate the amount of words you have added to your novel against an expected par. It also tells you how many words you have left to add, what you have to write each day to stay on par, and which day you could expect to finish your novel based upon your current word count and daily average contributions. I updated my word count nearly every day!
  3. Sponsor Offerings – NaNoWriMo is supported by sponsor offerings for its participants. Some of these offerings are made available even if you don’t win. I decided to take advantage of one of the offerings prior to commencing the competition. This was a free trial to use Scriviner, a writer’s content generation tool. As a NaNoWriMo winner I can now purchase it with a 50% discount. The trial has certainly been worth it!  There are many other sponsor offerings with just as much value. The sponsor offerings are a big motivator for a new author, like myself.

Write to Win!

So what do you win when you reach your goal of 50,000 words in November? The satisfaction of having a first draft manuscript of your novel!

You are no longer a procrastinator, no longer a ‘gonna do it’ person, but a doer.

You are a NaNoWriMo winner as you have achieved your goal to write a 50,000 novel in thirty days. It may need a rewrite in parts, it could do with some editing and perhaps you are compelled to write more scenes, but you have a first draft. And that goal is worth more than just your first draft manuscript, a pat on the back, and an extra chocolate or two. It is also worth a do-it-yourself certificate and this proudly displayed winner’s button!

NaNoWriMo Winner

I can finally say : I can do it.

It wasn’t really too difficult either, thanks to all the support I received from NaNoWriMo, its sponsors, friends and my family. (Especially the support from my five year old daughter, who seems to have the impression that we are now going to be super rich, no pressure!).

If you are thinking of writing a novel NaNoWriMo is a fabulous way to renew your dream and to get scratching that itch.

See you in November for a new novel experience with NaNoWriMo, because ‘stories matter’.

Addendum

This article was originally posted at U-Foria: appreciating the finer things in life on 28 November 2013

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