Let Your Imagination Run Wild

When most people think of Novem­ber, they think of turkeys, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. However, to thousands of people across the globe, November means one thing—National Novel Writ­ing Month. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s called for short, is a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. That’s about the amount of words in Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook or John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Some choose to write alone, others meet up with other local partici­pants to write together in write-ins, use the online discussion forums to get en­couragement, or help each other with their writing problems.

The whole month is filled with cre­ative energy, just waiting for writers to channel it. While the majority of par­ticipants are amateur writers, some do get their novels published later on, like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Most of the novels written will never see the light of day, and yet the majority of par­ticipants feel like the challenge was worth it. And yes, it is a challenge. Writ­ing fifty thousand words, while doable, isn’t easy. It takes time, commitment, and facing your writing fears. Despite all this, thousands of writers take on the challenge year after year, and find them­selves proud to have tackled it at the end, no matter how good or bad their novel ends up being.

NaNoWriMo is geared towards adult writers, but they have also developed a program for kids who want to get in the action. Created in response to teachers who wanted to use NaNoWriMo in classrooms, the Young Writers Program provides free materials, like workbooks, to thousands of participating classrooms, from elementary school kids to high schoolers. Whatever your age, NaNoW­riMo wants you to get out and write.

If you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, NaNoWriMo give you the mo­tivation you need. It gives you a word count goal each day, which adjusts based on how much or how little you write. The site’s online discussion forums make it easy to go online and talk to people just like you, people with hectic lives and jobs but who still want to get to writing. The forums cover nearly every kind of writing imaginable, from specific genres to plot doctoring to writing 101. If you prefer writing outside your home, then check in your regional forum, where you can choose a list of write-ins to at­tend. Whatever your writing habits, there’s something that will be appealing to you.

But what if you’ve never thought of writing a novel and you’re nervous that you will fail? Or does the thought of the writing fifty thousand words sends you into a cold sweat? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot! As the NaNoWriMo website points out, even if you fall short and only write a hundred words out of the goal of fifty thousand, that’s a hundred words more than you would have written if you didn’t try. No one expects you to write a masterpiece in thirty days. But as the saying goes, you can’t revise a blank page, and the writing you do during NaNoWriMo will give you plenty to revise later.

Ready to give NaNoWriMo a try? Here are a few tips:

  1. Sign up at nanowrimo.org as soon as possible. Once you’ve signed up, make sure to set up your region so you can see what events are going on around you.
  2. Check out the forums. Set your forum preferences so you can filter out the ones you don’t want—for example, if you only write historical fiction, you can hide all the other genre forums, rather than having to constantly scroll past them.
  3. Find a writing buddy, either online or offline, who will sympathize with you or challenge you, depending on what you need. It still counts if your motivation for writing is to beat some­one else’s word count.
  4. Don’t feel discouraged if you get behind in your word count, or you feel that your plot or characters are refusing to cooperate. Remember that what you’re doing is a challenge, and that you’re improving yourself just by getting the words out on paper or screen.

    ILLUSTRATION BY FELICIA CHANG