NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is a program run out of Berkeley, California that supports writers, especially first time writers, in completing a novel in one month, November.
The numerical goal is to write 50,000 words. Don’t research, don’t edit, just get your story down on paper, and worry about fixing things later. 50,000 words is a shortish novel, but you’re only working on the first draft anyways, so there’s plenty of time for editing later.
I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated three times prior to 2107. In 2012, I found myself out of work when the startup that I was working for stopped. Perfectly timed for the beginning of NaNoWriMo. I had already had a start of my first novel, and wrote an additional 50k words in November. (The whole story is told here.) Thus, in NaNoWriMo-speak, I was a WINNER! And after a year or so of editing, my first novel To Rule the Skies was published.
In 2013 (still unemployed), I started my second novel The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday, a prequel to To Rule the Skies. I wrote my required 50,000 words, and was again a Winner. In 2014 (now gainfully employed), I spent NaNoWriMo finishing and editing this book. As my word count was only 20,000, I didn’t win, but enjoyed the camaraderie and encouragement that is part of NaNoWriMo.
I skipped 2015 and 2016 (still editing), but will participating this year again. I have a third book (which chronologically falls between the two previous books) loosely outlined and a few key scenes already written. The working title is There be Dragons Here.
My goal for WriMo this year is 500 words a day, which seems able to be done easily enough, even given my full-time job and lengthy commute. Actually, I’m hoping that some of that two hours a day on the train can be put to good use. Although the train is not the ideal writing environment–noisy, crowded–it does have the advantage of not having WiFi and thus connection to the internet. Hopefully fewer distractions checking emails and looking up pertinent obscure facts on Wikipedia will result in a nice chunk of more concentrated writing time. If writing on CalTrain works out, 500 words a day should be easily accomplished. If not, well, I should be able to bang them out between dinner and bedtime.
So, I won’t be a NaNoWriMo Winner this year, but does that make me a Loser? I say, “No”. If I hit my daily word count, I’ll have written 15,000 first-draft words by the end of the month, made a nice start in my next book, and gotten a boost in my enthusiasm for finishing.
Which is the whole point.