Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Beginner Writers Could Learn From Nanowrimo

As previously stated, Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is traditionally held in November each year. If you participate, you are required to write 50 000 words of fiction in a novel format and upload your efforts to be verified. (You may scramble your upload, but it is deleted in any case automatically after the computer verified the word count.)

Nanowrimo 2010 just came to an end and many writers proved to themselves and other participants that they are able to write 50 000 words in the space of a month.

I have read many arguments for and against participating in the Nano exercise, but here is what I found from personal experience:

1. Writing 50 000 words amounts to just under 1700 words per day for the whole month in order to finish comfortably. That is not an easy feat if you have a day job which pays the bills and a family to take care of.

2. Nobody knows if the word count you submit is true or if you submitted a lot of the same words or paragraphs. Nano is not a competition against someone else, it is a test of you own abilities. To cheat at Nano, you only cheat yourself out of a well-earned and morale boosting experience. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing better than seeing your word count climb and knowing that every single word was written by you in a story that you may someday be able to send to a publisher and be proud to do so.

3. If you procrastinate during the first two weeks, you will find yourself with a seemingly impossible word court to target every day just to finish on time.

Copy 1 of Y Pienaar Nano 2010 As you can see on the graph above, which I copied from the Nanowrimo website, on the 9th of November 2010 I had a meagre 1791 words written. By the 14th I had only 4000 words and started to panic. Real panic only set in around the 23rd when I only reached halfway with just over 25 000 words and the requirement to finish on time climbed to over 3500 words per day.

4. It is possible to write a lot of words, while still keeping to your plot and being true to your characters, in one day. All the writing may not be good and some will be positively horrible upon reading it again, but some parts will actually be pretty wonderful. The best part is that you won’t recognize the good parts until you get to the editing stage.

5. Participating in Nano without having your novel planned out beforehand – like with YWriter or Storybook, makes it much more difficult to stay within the confines of your plot. You don’t have time to go back and check if what you wrote now didn’t contradict something you wrote two days ago and by properly planning your novel in advance, the writing just comes easier. 

Would I recommend that beginner writers participate in Nano?

The answer is an absolute yes. If this is your first attempt at writing a novel, there is no better place to start writing it than during Nano month. What a feeling when you realise you just wrote the last word (although it is a first and very rough draft) of your first novel.  This is an excellent exercise to see if you have what it takes to one day realise your dream and become a full time fiction writer.