(Or, NaNo WriMo, which is short and and fun to say!)
I attempted NaNo in November of 2011. I had a vague idea for a novel about Vampires, and I thought it would be fun to try writing the whole thing (or near enough) in 30 days and nights. I found NaNo incredibly exciting, and each time I hit the target word count I felt like an awesome writer. Although, writing 1,667 words every day for the first two weeks was difficult, I managed it. By the third and fourth week, however, I started missing a day or two, and was left playing catch up. That was a struggle and I ended up slipping further and further behind. Eventually, I had too many words to write in order to catch up, and I stopped writing. I think that if I hadn’t been working full time on my PhD at the same time, I may well have caught up. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
I learned some valuable lessons from taking part in NaNo, though, and I thought it would be a good idea to share these. First, make a synopsis beforehand. I’m the kind of writer who writes as and when I’m inspired. I never write plots, or character profiles etc… This was a problem for NaNo because after I’d written the first chapter (which I’d planned in my head), I didn’t know what came next. I ended up spending most of my time thinking about what was going to happen, which meant less time writing. You don’t need every detail planned out, but a general idea would be good. Otherwise, you end up writing anything to meet the daily target.
Second, keep up with the daily word count. This is a cardinal rule for anyone undertaking NaNo. When you begin, you think that writing a thousand words a day is easy. But, be warned, it’s not as easy as it looks when you have to do it every day. I failed NaNo because I got too far behind to pull it back. Plus, seeing my graph bars well below the line was really demotivating, and writing became a chore.
Third, utilizing program’s like Write or Die. This adds extra fun to NaNo, especially if you use the kamikaze setting! If you don’t write within a few seconds, the program deletes words. Ah! This was a brilliant tool for the days where I fell behind the word count.
Fourth, doing NaNo with a friend has positives and negatives. On the positive side, it’s exciting to talk about NaNo, and share what you’re doing with someone else. On the negative side, if you’re very competitive like Lynne and I, it might bring out your ugly side. Lynne and I really competed! To the point where we just wanted to be a few words ahead of each other by the end of every deadline. This was good for motivation and for the word count, but if you’re friend beats you, they’ll never let you live it down (well, Lynne hasn’t anyway). I think it’s important to remember that it’s not whether you win or lose (ahem, Lynne), but the journey. It’s about pushing your creative side and having a go at writing a full novel.
Sadly, I’m not planning on doing NaNo this year. I’m in the final year of my PhD and need to knuckle down. For those of you who are planning on taking part in NaNo this year (2012) — good luck!
Final Verdict: If you are a writer, regardless of your level of experience, having a go at NaNo WriMo is a must!