If you’re not a part of the strange group of humans who identify themselves as authors, then you’re probably don’t know what NaNoWriMo is. Let me help you with that. NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is an annual, international challenge designed to help authors get a boost on writing a book. Besides all the pens and pencils scratching on paper, or the sound of fingers hammering on keys, there’s also a helluva lot of coffee and snacks involved. Bring your own, of course.
To ‘win’ the challenge, you must complete a minimum of 50,000 words, which the NaNo Gods deem should belong to a brand new novel, however some authors use the time to add 50,000 new words to a novel they’ve already started. Either way, since there isn’t any true prize involved—other than the amazingly gratifying feeling of having completed what may very well be your first book—it’s not completely frowned upon to bend the rules a bit. No one gets hurt.
Last year I went into the challenge completely unaware of what I was doing, or even what it was that I was going to write about. That’s because I’m a ‘pantser’. What’s that? Simple. It’s an author who flies by the seat of their pants, doesn’t plan or script out the story beforehand, doesn’t work off notes or journals or anything. They just sit down and write. The result of NaNo 2016 was my novel Where Angels Dwell.
The opposite of ‘pantsers’ is ‘planners’. I’ll admit, those weird control freak types scare me a bit. I tried planning out a book once. Had a general outline for each chapter, I knew who my characters would be and where and when they would appear. Then I started writing. By the end of Chapter 2 the story was so far off plan that I threw out my notes and just kept typing. That book became The Paladin of Panama, book number two in the Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion series.
So, why participate in NaNoWriMo if there’s no prize? Two reasons. First, it gets you serious about writing. Kind of like January 2nd every year when you decide you should probably start using that gym membership you keep paying for every month. The other reason is the people you’ll meet. Every year I come out of the challenge with at least one new friendship created. The self-published and indie author types of the world are amazing at creating community. We help each other, we support each other, and we are always willing to share. It really is the best community I’ve ever been a part of.
Now, if writing 50,000 words seem like a daunting task, keep in mind that it breaks down to 1,667 words per day. Even if you only type 20 words per minute, it would take less than 90 minutes per day. Most people type faster than that, so anticipate setting aside 45-60 minutes each day.
If that’s still too much, the NaNo folks have one other option for you. Camp NaNoWriMo. These camps aren’t real locations. Not like the mosquito-plagued, moldy wood cabins your parents sent you to every summer. They are ‘virtual’ camps. You don’t need to pack.
Camp NaNo varies in two ways. First, you participate as part of a virtual cabin. There are typically 5-8 campers in each cabin, and plenty of ways to communicate with your cabin-mates. This is where the true camaraderie of the indie author community is evident. There’s always someone to cheer you on, cheer you up, or cheer your success.
Camp NaNo also allows for a much wider variety of goals. The 50K word minimum doesn’t exist. In fact, you can set goals for the number of hours spent writing, number of pages written, and more. I highly recommend most first time authors start at a Camp since the pressure of NaNoWriMo can be much higher. No one wants to see an author give up writing because they failed to complete NaNo. This year I crushed the challenge, writing just under 5,000 words a day, completing the challenge on the 13th. Over the last 17 days of the month, I only added another 7,000 words. That’s the difference a challenge like this can make.
If you’re thinking about doing the challenge, the next one will be a Camp NaNo in April. Reach out to me for more information, and let me know how I can support you. Trust me, somewhere out in the world, someone is waiting to read your book. Let’s make sure they get that chance!
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