If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t heard of, much less embraced, National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. (#NaNoWriMo on social media). It’s the extremely popular, “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” Conceived as a way to motivate and enable writers to create a 50,000-word novel during the month of November, NaNoWriMo has grown to well over 300,000 participants.
In my opinion, too many people stumble over the “No.” Because fiction isn’t their thing, they think they can’t take advantage of the motivation, camaraderie, and writing tips that NaNoWriMo the ultimate procrastination breaker, offers. Of course, there’s a complementary WNFIN (Write NonFiction In November) which is run a little differently if you prefer to stick with other nonfiction writers.
Luckily, NaNoWriMo welcomes “rebels,” though the majority of participants are writing a novel. They even have formulated the Camp NaNoWriMo Guide to Rebelling. And, even though you might be in the minority, all momentum created by highly imaginative, productive novelists can be a powerful motivator.
You can use NaNoWriMo to write whatever it is that need to be written: cookbooks, memoirs, memories, family stories, or ancestor sketches. Your imagination is the limit.
Here’s how to use NaNoWriMo to write your stories:
- Sign up. It’s not too late. The act of enrolling serves a big blow to procrastination, and gives you access to NaNoWriMo’s great motivational and tracking tools. You’ll be able to measure your progress towards whatever goal you set.
- Define your project. The Guide to Rebelling says to “Own your Rebel Status.” What are you going to write about? Your own past? Your family’s history? That story that you’re sure would make a great movie? All of it? The more you know what you want to write before you sit down at the keyboard, the more likely the words are to flow.
- Set your own goal if you don’t like the 50,000-word goal. The number isn’t as important as your commitment to it. Though it’s oddly rewarding to get a little electronic “winner” certificate, hitting the 50 K word mark isn’t the true beauty of NaNoWriMo. Immersing yourself in your project is what stimulates creativity.
- Turn off your inner editor. I know, it sounds cheesy to go after a word count goal, if all the words are total crap. That’s what I thought during my first NaNoWriMo as well. Just write without editing; there’s wisdom behind that word-count madness. Even though some of what you write will need some cleaning up later, you’ll be surprised where your creativity takes you. When you stop editing them, the characters of your past reveal their nuances. Memories tumble out, as do your feelings about the past. As you lose your focus on excellent writing, you gain a focus on the past.
- Join the community. You can join other “rebels” in forums or join in Twitter word sprints, which are timed creative writing challenges. Although you might have different word counts than veteran novelists, the fact that others are committed to writing in November as well, helps keep you on track.
- On December 1, don’t just put away what you wrote. That’s the time to go back to your stories, clean them up, and share them with others.