National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is fast approaching. Here one writer shares why she takes up the challenge of writing a novel in 30 days.
By Alegra Clarke
I have to admit, I am a bit of NaNoWriMo bully. It brings out my evangelistic side. When listing reasons that a reluctant writer buddy should join this year’s NaNoWriMo, I pound the desk like it is a pulpit (because pounding the desk always goes a long way to convince people). As October gains momentum towards November, I dust off last year’s manuscript like it is a holy book of inspiration. I feel the weight of the pages, the 50,000 words in my hands. So what if 85% of it is gibberish? It is still a glorious thing.
“NaNoWriMo taught me that there is more time to write in a day than we might think…”
I don’t enter NaNoWriMo with expectations that I will come out on the other end of thirty days with a coherent novel. November is an excuse to live on a diet of chocolate, coffee, and crunchy-salty foods. It is a month to fully indulge the habits of my strange writer-self, such as walking down the street mumbling as I scribble notes and bump into lamp posts. It is an opportunity to buy a pretty notebook and a smooth-gliding ballpoint. But more than that, completing a NaNoWriMo forever changed the limitations I had previously placed on myself as a writer. NaNoWriMo taught me that there is more time to write in a day than we might think, and that discipline is the greatest weapon against the internal critic perched hungrily in my mind.
I am tempted to refer to NaNoWriMo as a “writers’ bootcamp” but that sounds like punishment. I prefer the idea that it is the writers’ version of running with the bulls in Spain. I think most of us have bulls snorting at the gates of our mind: procrastination, self-doubt, anxiety, excuse-making, poor time management, and other various limitations we place on our ability to write. NaNoWriMo provides us the opportunity to line those bulls up and, in the company of good friends, challenge those bulls to chase us to the finish line.
It takes more than fear of being trampled to meet the daily word count. NaNoWriMo success requires a celebratory abandonment of all the things that keep those bulls snorting at us for the other eleven months of the year. Perfectionism and over-thinking are the first two things that must be dropped in order to keep up speed. Procrastination and excuse-making quickly become suffocating garments to be shed.
A sweaty, laughing madwoman
By the time I am halfway into the month I am the literary equivalent of a sweaty, laughing, madwoman running down the street half-naked…but I am in good company, lost in a crowd of other delirious NaNoWriMo-ers. It doesn’t even matter if we reach the 50,000 words, as long as we have kept one step ahead of the bulls.
I could end this blog with listing various arguments for NaNoWriMo, such as the fact that I now have a storehouse of words that I can fall back upon whenever needed. Last year’s manuscript is full of sentences I can recycle and chapters I can draw upon. And, I admit that this year, I have hopes I will emerge from the 30 days with the first half of my novel written. But really, I believe everyone should run with the bulls at least once before they die. Everyone should turn around, wave their red flag at their fears, and then run like crazy.
Check out NaNoWrimo for yourself—if you dare to write with the bulls go here.
Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Any tips or advice? Share here along with your NaNo handle.
Alegra Clarke is writing as “Skeeterfish” on NaNoWriMo this year.