NaNoWriMo and its Family

NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month, is an event that happens all around the world every November. This internet-based event is a creative writing project that challenges its participants to write 50,000 words of a brand new novel in the month of November alone.

The usefulness of NaNoWriMo has long been argued about amongst numerous writers of all kinds and all genres and the views towards it are quite mixed. Here I talk about my experience with it.

I had always been very comfortable writing at my own pace; I never had a problem being motivated to write so I never really thought I needed something like NaNoWriMo to boost my productivity. One day before NaNoWriMo 2011 was due to begin there was plenty of buzz going around about it and I was asked by other writers if I was going to be participating. Finally, I took the bait; with no new novel plans, with no themes or fresh ideas in mind to guide me through the experience. I felt lost.

Upon logging into the forum of my region on NaNoWriMo I came across the event called ‘write-ins’. It happens all over the world, just like all other NaNoWriMo events, and is organised by each regions ML. This is an event in which at least once a week a group of participants meet up at a library, café or other suitable spot to write their novels in company. When I found out about this, right in the middle of a write-in, I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about how big of a deal NaNoWriMo really was.

During NaNoWriMo I adapted to writing more and faster, hushing my inner (perfectionist) editor,  joining a group of people at write-ins and dealing with a genre that I had not touched in a long time, fantasy. I did all this with no real plan going into it and I made it through the experience with incredible memories and…with 50,000 words of a novel. Yes, I did actually make it to the end and won it. I was impressed with myself.

Occasionally I thought about what a lot of authors’ arguments are against NaNoWriMo, “Can something written in such a rush, without a lot of consideration, be considered good material for a novel?”

I can keenly reply with, “yes” now. With less time to fuss over meaningless details, wasting time staring at walls for no reason and with a simple idea in mind one can be completely surprised by the twists and turns that their novel will take. I found this to be extremely interesting and I feel like I learned a lot about myself as a writer in doing this.

Doctor and musician Charles Limb has studied much about creativity and the brain and states that by switching off the editor within can increase expression and creativity flow.

Having done his testing on music, Charles Limb says, “I absolutely believe that the same thing could apply to writing. The idea that you can get into the zone of writing and that you can get into the zone with music is very analogous. Many, many writers, I’m sure, are surprised at what is coming out of their fingertips, or out of their head, or off their pen. As they write, there’s some sort of effortlessness that can take over when you’re really in the zone.” This all refers to improvisation.

This means that the challenge and opportunity that participating in NaNoWriMo provides certainly has its advantages. It really gives us the chance to produce something fast and with a different type of quality.

June and August 2012 will be the set months for Camp NaNoWriMo, the summer version of NaNoWriMo for people who don’t have time during the November session. With that beginning, I encourage as many people as possible to join others in thirty days and nights of literary abandon. Or thirty-one in the case of August.

For those who are interested in script-writing, The Office of Letters and Light also organises Script Frenzy every April. The rules are similar; thirty days to write a 100 page script.

Having tried NaNoWriMo for myself and having won it, resulting in a novel that I’m extremely proud of, I absolutely recommend the challenge to writers. It’s more than alright if it’s not for you, or if you think you can do just fine without it, but do try it some time or another.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? What were your experiences? Will you participate again? Let me know!

Useful Links:

NaNoWriMo: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Camp NaNoWriMo: http://campnanowrimo.org/

Script Frenzy: http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/

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