Friday, October 23, 2015

National Novel Writing Month

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

November is JUST around the corner, friends, and you know what that means? National Novel Writing Month!

National Novel Writing Month is not something that originated here at Go Teen Writers but was created in 1999 by a guy named Chris Baty. Since then, all over the world people dedicate the month of November to novelling. It's a crazy, amazing thing and YES, you can be a part. 

There's all sorts of easy-to-read info about the event here, but the gist is this: Every single day in November you write 1,667 words and come midnight on November 30th, you will have written just over 50k words, which is about the length of a short novel. Some folks write more each day and some write less. Sometimes you have to skip a day because LIFE and so you have to play catch-up later, but the idea is to write, write, write and--even if you don't actually pen the ending--get a huge chunk of your story pounded out. 

I've done NaNoWriMo (silly, shortened name that slides right off the tongue) a few times--twice officially and once on my own. So, I thought, perhaps I could give you a little encouragement and maybe some tips. First, 

Give it a go. Not only is it a fabulous excuse to dust off your hermit tendencies and put them to good use, but it's actually a lot of fun. Just knowing that oodles of writers around the world are participating alongside you turns a very solitary endeavor into something you can share. November is the least lonely time to pen a novel.

Prepare. This is huge, you guys. Me, a girl who writes by the seat of her pants, telling YOU to plan a bit, but hear me out. Here's what usually happens. The first week or so is FAB. You have ideas and the words are amazeballs, but come day eight or so, you start to wonder if you really have enough steam to keep rolling. A little preparation will help. So, while you'll never, EVER hear me tell you to plan out your entire novel, I will say that jotting down some notes--story problem, possible scenes, character motivations, possible climax, setting ideas--will provide you with content when you seem to have run out of words. You have a little over a week to scribble out some thoughts in whatever way works best for you. That's more than enough time, friends. I promise.

Keep going. There will come a day when you stare at your manuscript and think, THESE CHARACTERS ARE HORRIBLE. They won't do anything. I can't write. I'm the worst. This is a waste of time. I could be eating turkey RIGHT NOW. 

When this inevitable day rolls around, promise me you'll write through it. And here's why: Eventually, maybe around week three, your characters actually get interesting again. They start doing things on their own, making decisions without you, and the writing gets easier. It's a bizarre, wonderful moment and you should give yourself the privilege of experiencing it.   

That said, WINNING IS NOT THE END GOAL. The first (official) time I did NaNoWriMo was after I completed Angel Eyes, but before I landed a publishing contract. I used the month of November to hash out the draft of book two in the series. And I did it! I won! I wrote just over 50k, but you know what? I didn't use a single one of those words in the final version of the book. And still, it was an important time for me. I learned which words weren't going to work and I learned that writing every single day is possible. 

My second official attempt was two years ago and while I did not, in fact, WIN (read: write all 50k words), most of the 30k words I did write appear in a manuscript I completed and am currently working with my agent to place.

Both experiences changed my writing and I'm glad I gave it a go when I did.

The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to get you writing. And yes, the brains behind the event would love you to write all 50k words, but, from my heart to yours, the real goal here is to prove to yourself that you really can do this. You can be a writer who writes consistently. And while November is a horrid month to do it (HELLO THANKSGIVING and FAMILY and TRAVEL), it's also very like real life. There is never, ever a good time to commit. Life is always too busy. Why not give it a go now?

This year, because I'll be without computer access for a decent portion of the month, I'll be doing my own modified version of NaNoWriMo and, as such, I wanted to make sure you all knew about the Young Writers Program. The folks at NaNoWriMo realize that 50k might be too much for younger writers and they've created a program that allows the fresh faces out there to set their own word count goal for the month. This is an excellent way to ease into NaNoWriMo. Be sure to check it out!

Now, tell me, anyone else out there participated in NaNoWriMo before? Did you enjoy the experience? Who's giving it a go this year?

65 comments:

  1. Will this benefit me as a writer even if I join knowing I won't win? I already started my novel, and I'm pretty sure it won't take another 50,000 words to finish it--but I think I'd get sort of close. --Savannah McPhail

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    1. Never mind! I signed up!

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    2. ANYTIME you write chunks of words, it helps. ANYTIME you consistently write chunks of words, it helps more. So YES!

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  2. I'd forgotten about NaNoWriMo! Since I'm a student athlete and on the mock trial team, I don't have time to do 50K, but I definitely want to get 10K of my current manuscript knocked out over November. That's still a big push for me, because normally I don't write on weekdays at all.

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  3. NaNoWriMo! I've done it and the camps three or four years now. Definitely doing it again this year. I still need to plan my novel, though . . . and also get some of the school writing done so I don't have to deal with it in November.

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    1. A veteran! You know your stuff then! Good luck, friend!

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  4. I've never done NaNoWriMo before, but I think I've just about convinced myself to give it a try. I've been working on planning my novel and formulating the characters in my mind, and I'm starting to get excited about it. :D

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  5. I've done YWP NaNoWriMo, and it's awesome! Doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I can't wait. :3

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  6. I have done NaNoWriMo that past two years, but I am torn as to whether I should do it this year or not. My computer broke down on me a couple of months ago and since then I have been sharing computers with different people in my family, making it very hard to write anything. But I really really want to do! But there are some many things going on in November, including four of my siblings birthdays! I don't know what I want to do!!

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    1. That is hard. I say, sign up and set a reasonable goal for yourself using the Young Writers Program.

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  7. I have never participated because it is in Nov. That is the month that hours start picking up at work and then all my finals are due for college. If it were in June, I probably would have tried in a long time ago.

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    1. I know! It's hard. They do have Camp NaNo, but I will admit to being clueless about it. Check out the site, though. Some folks do the NaNoWriMo thing in the spring.

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  8. I've done it several times but only completed it once. The YWP nano is a bit more do-able around a school schedule but I love doing nano and am definitely planning on doing it this year. :D

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  9. I am doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. Last year I almost did it, but I've never written close to 2,000 words every day so I ended up chickening out. But this year my friends convinced me to do it with them so we'll see how it goes! Still gotta plan that novel, though...procrastination has kept me from doing it thus far. :P I'm very excited for it, though!

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    1. The excitement is actually very helpful! Let it motivate you!

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  10. Col post! I've done the Young Writers NaNo every year since 2011, slowly increasing my goals each year, until last November, me and a friend did 50k together. This year though, I'm not planning on writing a novel, but a short story collection: one short story/flash fic every day. It requires less plotting, which I didn't really have time for, and I'm super excited to get to all of my little plot bunnies! :D


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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  11. I did Camp NaNoWriMo in April for the first time this year, and although it was absolutely crazy, I'm so glad I did it! I'd really like to give the regular NaNoWriMo a try. Unfortunately, I won't be able to do it this year. But this post got me excited about the day that I will!

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  12. This will be my 4th year to participate and (hopefully) second year to accomplish all 50,000 words. :D

    My novel this year is called "Love and the Sea and Everything in Between" and is such an emotional downpour. >~< But I'm excited nonetheless! :D

    Interestingly, the only time I really plot is for NaNo!

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  13. I did the young writers program last year. I only ended up with 11,000 words, but I didn't plan anything. So... I did this year. Hopefully I'll be able to get out at least 20,000 words. :)

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    1. I bet you will! Plotting helps a lot with this type of mad-dash writing.

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  14. This is my fourth year doing NaNoWriMo. I loved doing this experience, especially since my mom and I like to do NaNoWriMo as a mother-daughter-bonding-experience. It's also helpful and pushes one to write.

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    1. So incredibly cool to share this experience with your mom!

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  15. This will be my sixth year doing NaNo! :) (I'm writing a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling and am currently procrastinating over plotting it by reading blogs instead. XD) I managed to "win" all five years so far, even when I was on a roadtrip half of the month last year. It's TOTALLY worth it to do NaNo and I'm very excited to do it this year! :) I write super-slow all year round, so it's nice to get a burst of speed going, with the camaraderie of NaNo when other writers are writing too.

    It IS important to be prepared, though. I just did this post about stuff to do to get ready for NaNo: https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/checklist-30-things-to-do-for-nano-prep/ :)

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    1. I agree. It's wonderful to get the boost November brings. Thanks for sharing your post.

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  16. I'm doing it! 0.0 I'm completely freaking out, but I'm doing it! I've done Young NaNoWriMo for several years, but this year I decided to be completely insane and go for the 50,000.

    I know of a couple people who use Young Nano so they can set their wordcounts higher than 50,000... o.o

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    1. WOW! That's a cool way to use the YWP. I would have NEVER thought about that.

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    2. How exciting, Faith! Best wishes for that 50K! :)

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  17. I've done the YWP once and the full Nano twice - I won both times, ended up getting 100k last year! It's so much fun. I'm sadly not doing it this year, because exams here in NZ are during November, and I'm working on revising a couple of other projects anyway.

    Good luck to everyone taking part :)

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    1. Oh boo! But I understand. Some years it's just not happening.

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  18. I'm trying for the first time ever. *gulp* Scared!

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  19. Yeah, NaNo! I unofficially did it last year and I think I won (because i only had access to a computer for about thirty minutes a day, i wrote my novel out on lined paper. if i counted the words correctly i just made it to 50K). I'm doing it again this year with the help of a laptop. last year i only worked off of a short sypnosis and learned my lesson. this year I plotted out every chapter back in August.

    Good luck to those of you doing NaNo this year!

    ~K.A.C.

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    1. Look at you! All prepared and stuff. Major props.

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  20. I signed up earlier today! This is my first time ever participating in NaNoWriMo, and I'm SUPER excited!! :D

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  21. Thanks to this post, I'm going to push away all of my "excuses" for why I shouldn't try it, and just do it! Thank you for the wise words and encouragement. I'm so excited. Ahhh!

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  22. I'm going to do it! Only eight days to plan, of course... oh well, I convinced myself to do it before I had time to protest!

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  23. I participated and won last year and plan to do it again this year. Planning is really important even though I never really planned out books up until then. Even jotting down scenes or character ideas is a good prep plan. The third week was the hardest for me when the starting fun had worn off and I was deep in a very very rough first draft, most of which I've scrapped since then. Even so, I learned a lot about plotting which I use now and am excited to find out what I'll be learning this NaNoWriMo (like the fact the "No" doesn't stand for November :)

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    1. It's such a learning experience all around! Good luck, friend.

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  24. This will be my first year doing Nanowrimo. I'm super excited and I keep having to hold back my fingers from typing the first chapter. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to 50k since I'm so busy with my school work (College algebra. blah.) and scholarships, but I'm going to have fun and enjoy the "excuse" to get a lot of writing in.

    The novel (which I have all plotted on sticky note scenes on my dresser mirror) was actually sparked by a GTW prompt we did a few months ago.

    I cannot wait to get started. I already wrote the "prologue." :) (It was less than a page though.)

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    1. YAY for writing prompts! I wish you tons and tons of luck. And even more words than you can wrangle!

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  25. What I can't believe is how some people manage 150k, 200k, or more in one month!

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    1. No, that's not a typo. Just check out the "Beyond 50k" forum. Yikes!

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    2. I know. It's nutso. I have no answers.

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    3. Unbelievable! My jaw just drops at such crazy numbers.

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  26. The "keep going" part is so true!!!!

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  27. I'm entering in the youth program! It's my first year, and I'm super busy with schoolwork, so my goal is 30,000 words. Fingers crossed.

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    1. Same here! I'm seventeen, so I barely fit in the young writers' program, but I am for this year for two reasons: it's my first time, and I'm just getting into it and finding what it's like; and I have lots of school pressure, so I'm setting my goal at 30,000. But if I go a little over I won't mind :).

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  28. I'm doing it! So excited since I have my story planned out (mostly) and a writing buddy to do the challenge with. Can't wait!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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  29. Yay! Cheers for everyone who is doing NaNo next month - you can do it! :D This will be my third year doing NaNo, and I'm so excited. NaNo is pretty crazy, but it's a good crazy, and it really helps get those words onto the page. I have most of my story outlined and can't wait for NaNo to begin!

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  30. I'm definetly doing this! Even though I've alreeady failed. I have a question though, does it have to be the same story the whole time?

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