For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is (I mean, I don’t know how you don’t know, but still):
NaNoWriMo is the crazy November event in which thousands of writers across the globe attempt to write a novel in a month. Or at least, they attempt to write the first 50,000 words of one. Last year was my first NaNoWriMo, and I managed to finish the 75k MS a few days before the end of November. I’m now querying that MS, which is called MUTUAL WEIRDNESS. I then did the same thing in April for Camp NaNoWriMo.
The thing with NaNoWriMo is that even if you’re a pantser, it’s not a good idea to go in with no idea of what you’re doing. If you don’t have somewhere to go, it’s probably more likely that you won’t get to the 50,000 word goal. So here is my checklist before you embark on that insane journey.
1) Have you been thinking about this idea for a sustained amount of time?
I ask this because if the idea came to you last week, it might be a symptom of Shiny New Idea Syndrome, when ideas seem…well, shiny, simply because they’re new. My idea has been rattling around for a couple months, and since I still think it’s a good idea (others might disagree!), I know it’s something I can keep going.
2) Do you know where you’re going with the idea? Plot? Characters?
I suppose the most common reason writers don’t finish an MS is because it doesn’t go anywhere. What is the POINT of this story? How does it end? These are questions you need to ask before you start NaNoWriMo.
3) Are you doing it for the right reasons?
NaNoWriMo’s aim is not to produce a fantastic novel. Its aim is to provide motivation and a kick in the pants to write a first draft. First drafts, almost by Divine Writer Law, suck. This is fact. But NaNoWriMo is such a fast-paced event that you hardly have time to notice how much it sucks. Are you participating because you want to send something off to a literary agent in December? Chances are, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. There are people who use the month to rewrite existing MS’s, of course, and that’s fine too.
4) Have you told people that you’re doing it?
The writing community on Twitter is one of my favourites. People are constantly harassing, ahem, encouraging others in their mad dash for the finish line. You’re more likely to finish if there are others egging you on. The prospect of not finishing seems much more grim if your friends are nagging you to catch up on those words you missed because you were watching Australia’s Got Talent.
5) Are you okay with not finishing?
In the end, life sometimes gets in the way of things. This November, I have school camp, school formal, a part-time job, exams, driving lessons, queries to be sent out, classes to pretend to listen to (I’m looking at you, maths and science), and a family to occasionally acknowledge the existence of. NaNoWriMo is a huge achievement whatever happens, but ALSO a huge achievement is getting down more words than you had before. Remember, you can’t edit an empty page. Try it out – what’s the worst that can happen?