Did you finish writing a novel this month?
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). From November 1 until 11:59:59 on November 30, all budding writers are encouraged to tackle writing a novel (50,000 words minimum or approximately 175 pages). With a mere 30 days, the idea is to write, write, write. No worries about quality, revision, or advanced plotting. Get the words on the page, and get the story done however it turns out. There’s even a website for participants to join with other writers for encouragement or commiseration. Check out the official site here.
Though I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, I only learned about NaNoWriMo probably four or five years ago. The movement itself began in 1999 with 21 participants and has expanded to over 200,000 participants in 2010. Since hearing about it, I’ve always wanted to do it. Sure, I’ve already written at least 5 complete novels, but the idea of getting more under my belt—so to speak—is vastly appealing. And of course, ever year I seem to miss out on the opportunity. I spent much of the beginning of this November in France. Ah, conflicts…
Yet all is not lost. There’s no reason to confine ourselves. Those of us who missed out on this November’s writing endeavor could reschedule. Who’s to say we couldn’t pick December 2011 or January 2012 as our novel writing month? NaNoWriMo is meant to encourage and foster the novel writing process but by no means is meant to be exclusionary. In otherwords, don’t confine yourself to one month. Continue the process or begin it. You decide.
The thing I find fascinating about NaNoWriMo’s concept is the focus on quantity versus quality. If it all comes down to how much is written, is the end result publishable? Highly doubtful. Yet it’s an excellent exercise for world-building. Crafting a novel is about creating characters, places, and events (based on reality or not) that occur in our novel’s world. By forcing ourselves to focus just on writing, it allows us the opportunity to explore these elements. The “novel” we write during NaNoWriMo (or a month of our choosing) might turn out to be dribble, but chances are there are glimmers of brillance. This “novel” could be the springboard, the bible, for our Novel. Our Novel might turn out completely different from the “novel” we churned out in a month, but it could easily borrow those elements (characters, places, and events) that were first formed within the “novel.”
Or for those of us, like myself, who have a staple of existing characters and places, this exercise allows us to further explore and expand on what we’ve conceived. Perhaps creating new scenarios that could be used not just in one Novel, but two or more. Because—after all’s said and done—when this year’s NaNoWriMo ends at the stroke of midnight, all “novels” created may either be put aside with a sense of accomplishment…OR…reconstructed, revamped, revised or scavenged for a truly polished work. One that might just yield that ultimate goal: Publication.