Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 19 October 2014

It’s that time of year again by Mary Smith

That’s right, NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. For anyone who does not know what NaNoWriMo is, it is National Novel Writing Month in which writers all over the world embark on a mad marathon of writing from the 1st to the 30th November with the aim of reaching a target of 50,000 words. That’s 1,677 words a day.

The event was started by a guy called Chris Baty back in 1999 in the San Francisco Bay area. A total of 29 people took part. The following year an official website was created and 140 participants joined, 29 of whom completed the challenge. Chris expected a similar number the following year but 5,000 signed up – causing a bit of a headache for the organisers and the technology.

In 2002, following a lot of media attention, 14,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo and it has continued to grow. Last year 310,095 writers took part. It is a huge, global community of writers with forums which provide a place for support, advice and information. There are regional Municipal Liaisons (ML) who help on a voluntary basis with organising local events, ‘meet-ups’ and to offer advice. A buddy system is in place so you can have someone to keep you going when you start to flag.

The rules are simple. You sit down and you start writing at 12 am on November 1st (when you sign up online you can adjust the clock to match your own time zone). The work must be new but it can be on any theme, it can be the complete story or the beginning of a longer work. You can post the number of words achieved each day and at the end of the month you put the entire work onto the site to be verified – if it’s 50,000 words or more, you have ‘won’.  The prize is a sticker to put on your website or blog – so although it would be very easy to cheat it’s simply not worth it.  Oh, and CreateSpace offer to produce a draft copy of your finished manuscript.

The aim is to get people to start writing, get the words down and worry about editing later. It is ‘quantity over quality’. The site’s slogan is ‘No Plot? No Problem.’

I tried and failed to reach the 50,000 word target a couple of times. One year, I was so depressed about my failure I swore I’d never do it again. I totally forgot it was supposed to be fun (!?). Last year, I signed up at the last minute and I ‘won’ though I chose not to have CreateSpace turn by 50,000 words of drivel into a ‘book’. I can still remember how very pleased with myself I felt when it was confirmed I had achieved the target.

Since then, I have been turning the muddle of words into a blog called My Dad Is A Goldfish, which is all about caring for my demented dad.

Will I take part in NaNoWriMo this year? I’m thinking about it and if having no plot is really no problem then I might just have a go again.

Will anyone else be signing up for a month of writing mayhem?

15 comments:

  1. I think it's a great way of making us get the words down, Mary - and I need that sometimes! However, I have too many things to finish this year and I'm expecting edits at some point so I'll give it a miss this time round. Good luck if you go ahead!

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    1. I agree, Rosemary, it's a good way to bash on, not worrying about what rubbish is appearing on the screen. Once the raw material is there it can be sorted later - or deleted

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  2. I think I will give it a go this year but I'm not very optimistic because I've actually just finished a first draft in less than a month so I don't know if I've got 50,000 words left in the tank. (Timing eh?)

    But as you say, Mary, no plot, no problem. So I think I'll probably go for it anyway.

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    1. Goodness, Jennifer, a first draft in a month is good going! You probably deserve a break. On the other hand, the words might just continue to flow. Maybe see you there!

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  3. Mary, now you've got me thinking. Part of me says I dont' have time with so many other projects on-going. But I do have the germ of an idea for a new novel abd am wondering whether I should try to blast through it. Hmm, mmm, not sure...

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    1. Gill, I know I don't have time but last year I was amazed to find I could actually hammer out the words. I think there is something abuut knowing thousnads of other people are bashing away at their stories at the same time which keeps me going. And no one need ever see what rubbish you write! I'm still swithering but tending towards thinking I'll give it a go.

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  4. I'm in awe of people who do NanoWriMo. I know I could actually get the words down, but I think they'd be such a jumble that the whole effort would be totally wasted. But others find they can build on what they've done (like Jennifer, with her 70,000 words last year!!) - I just wish I could think the same! Good luck with whatever you decide.

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    1. My 50,000 words were a total jumble and all out of sequence and chronology, Jenny, but I've got my blog out of them and possibly a book. I kept each day's work in separate files. At the end I put them all into one big file to upload for the count but I still had my separate ones to work with later. If I do decide to have a go this year I'm going to tell myself I can give up at any time and not feel under pressure to complete. Though, if I oi sign up, I will want to 'win'. And I might have some half decent raw material.

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    2. I'm truly impressed. Go for it!

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    3. Still thinking about it, Jenny! But I sound like I'm talking myself into it, don't I?

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  5. I've been following your blog - very moving. Has the writing of it helped you come to terms with the sad scenario? As for NaNoWriMo .....I can write fast but .....maybe. It'd be a nice novella length at the end of it....hhhm....watch this space.

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    1. Thank you Linda. I already replied but it vanished into the ether when I hit publish! I was thanking you for your kind comment about my blog and saying how good it has been as a way to connect with others going through a similar situation.
      I also said I have never tried to write a novella - maybe that's something to go for in NaNoWriMo because I really don't have a clue what to write if I sign up.

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    2. Oh, good it worked this time.

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  6. I'm very, very, tempted here. I have a whole A4 pad full of a hand-written novel (written back in the day, pre computer and which I still love) that I could type up and.....well, you can guess the rest! Or is that cheating?

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