BY SHERRY D. RAMSEY
The leaves are changing, sweaters are coming out of storage, and all around the world, people are planning (or not planning) the novel they’re going to write in November. Because November is National Novel Writing Month.
What is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short)? It’s a personal challenge to write the first draft of a novel, of at least 50,000 words, during the month of November. It’s been around and growing since 1999, and now hundreds of thousands of writers and aspiring writers around the world participate every year.
“Whoa!” I hear you say. “That’s a lot of words in one month!”
Well, yes it is. To be precise, it’s 1667 words per day (rounding up), if you want to take those 50k words and spread them evenly out over the month. Taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge requires some amount of dedication, perseverance, and most important, prioritizing your writing for this one month of the year. But that’s not a bad thing. There’s also a Young Writer’s arm of NaNoWriMo, where kids of all ages can set their own word count goals for the month and write their stories, too.
To help you along the way, geographical regions have Municipal Liaisons—on-the-ground local volunteers who organize events during the month, and provide support and encouragement for participants. You’ll do most of your writing at your own pace, in your own space, and using whatever tools you wish, but you don’t have to do it all alone.
For Cape Breton, the ML is—me! I’ve been volunteering in this capacity since 2003, and every year local Wrimos write a lot of words…and have some fun along the way. Once again this year, we’ll be meeting at the CBU Cooperative Study Club space at the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation (old Holy Angels building). We’ll have both dedicated write-ins, and meetings just to chat about process and progress. Attending local events is not necessary, but the group dynamic is great to help you keep on track and give you inspiration when yours is wearing thin.
Unfortunately, Cape Breton is a big geographical area, and I can’t cover the entire island physically. But if you can’t make it to our meetings in person, we have dedicated forums, pep talk emails, and a Twitter feed to help everyone connect. Sometimes we have participants in other areas of the island who’ll work with me to arrange smaller local meetups, too.
So, how to get started? First, head on over to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up! (Did I mention that all of this creative wonderfulness is entirely free?) Once you’ve joined, be sure to set your home region to Canada :: Nova Scotia :: Cape Breton so you’ll receive emails letting you know about upcoming events. Peruse the site to find out any other details you need to know, or start a thread in the Cape Breton forum to ask your question. Be sure to check in there and introduce yourself, as well! You can find me on the site under the username “wordsmith.”
Then start planning your novel. You can plan as much (or as little) as you want beforehand, but don’t start writing until the clock ticks over to November 1st. Since this is only meant to be a first draft, my motto for the month is: it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be written. It’s okay to write a lot of…well, crap. You should expect to write a lot of crap. But the freedom to write badly is one of the greatest gifts NaNoWriMo will give you. You can always fix it later. But you can’t fix what you don’t write.
And that’s really all you need to know about NaNoWriMo to get you started. Now all you need is that novel idea…