It is with the utmost excitement that I announce, “NaNoWriMo is upon us!”
What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It is only the Mount Everest of writing experiences. The Ironman of novel construction. The Iditarod for aspiring authors. If you hope to one day be a writer, it is something you must attempt at least once in your life.
NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Participants have 30 days, from November 1st to November 30th, to write a 50,000 word novel. People from around the world gather at the NaNoWriMo website to offer each other support and commiserate on the experience. You may register there, find meetups, and earn badges as you hit milestones throughout the process.
So how do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? What exactly should your training montage entail? Here are some tips on how to get yourself ready.
King’s how-to manual on the topic of writing is not only a bestseller, but something you’d pick up and read for sheer pleasure. Quite an achievement. This book is part autobiography and part toolbox. It offers advice on vocabulary, grammar, style, and editing. You will learn something. The advice that always sticks with me: 1) Tell the truth, and 2) Don’t intentionally write in the style of another author. Don’t be a second-rate Stephen King. Be an original you.
How do creative people organize their lives in a way that maximizes their art? Do they get up early? Stay up late? What do they eat? What do they drink? What is the key to their productivity? This book details the day-to-day routines of artists and writers, from W. H. Auden to Agatha Christie, to the aforementioned Stephen King. And it is fascinating.
Perhaps you’re a Henry Miller who writes each night from midnight until dawn? Maybe you’re an Anthony Trollope? He got up at 5:30 a.m. each day and wrote for exactly three hours before heading to his job as a civil servant. (If Trollope finished a book during his three-hour writing period, he would take out a fresh sheet of paper and begin the next one.)
You’ll find a lot of early risers in this group and, frankly, a lot of substance use of one kind or another. From coffee, to alcohol and beyond. I recommend sticking with the artists who find their stimulation through walking and fresh air. There are plenty of those, too.
Let’s face it, writing can be a lonely endeavor and it doesn’t hurt to find people who are like-minded to cozy up to. Perhaps you’ll find comfort in the experiences of those who attended the storied Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
If you think NaNoWriMo is tough, take a peek behind door number two. The writers who are interviewed speak not only of the joys of attending the Workshop, but of its intense competition and pressure. Spend some time with Jane Smiley, John Irving, T.C. Boyle, Sandra Cisneros and more. Meet your mentors. They all attended between the years of 1974 and 1978.
I wish you the very best of luck with NaNoWriMo. I will be right there beside you in the trenches. My piece of wisdom: Writing a first draft is like laying down a map. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to get you where you want to go. Have fun!