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?