Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

I just uploaded the description of my next novel on the National Novel Writing Month website. This will be my third NaNoWriMo try. In case you have not heard of this program, it is a competition to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in 30 days, beginning on November 1. I entered for the first time in 2011 with a novel called Bonus Baby, a murder-mystery involving the murder of a hot major league prospect and I won with more than 51,000 words. In 2012, I won again with a story called Say a Prayer for Maura, about a dying father’s attempt to make peace with his estranged daughter.

So why would anyone in his right mind make a commitment to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days? It can’t be done, you might say. One would have to write, 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days straight. Impossible! Believe me, it can be done. The reward is not to “win” by racking up 50,000 words in 30 days. No, the reward is the discipline NaNo instills in writers.

When you participate in NaNo, you discover you can carve out a little time each day to write. Instead of spending 20 minutes checking your Facebook page, you could write. Instead of spending 15 minutes channel surfing you could write. Instead of the luxury of a long, hot shower, you could write.

The program started in 1999 in San Francisco and has grown exponentially since that time. Here are the numbers:

1999: 21 participants/six winners.
2000: 140 participants/29 winners.
2001: 5000 participants/700 winners.
2002: 13,500 participants/2,100 winners.
2003: 25,000 participants/3,500 winners.
2004: 42,000 participants/6,000 winners.
2005: 59,000 participants/9,759 winners.
2006: 79,000 participants/13,000 winners.
2007: 101,510 participants/15,333 winners.
2008: 119,301 participants/21,683 winners.
2009: 167,150 participants/32,178 winners.
2010: 200,500 participants/37,500 winners.
2011: 256,618 participants/36,843 winners.
2012: 341,375 participants/38,438 winners.

A number of these first drafts later became top-selling novels published by traditional publishes. Among these were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

My advice to all writers out there who don’t think they can do it: try it. You might be surprised.

Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month? How was your experience?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

  1. I’m a huge fan of NaNo, and will definitely be doing it this year 🙂 I’ve found that the only thing that really gets me writing is a deadline, so this is the perfect opportunity to get some words out of my head and onto paper!

    • Michelle,
      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you about NaNo. Good luck this year. Hope you have a great concept to work with.

      • It’s a … let’s call it a “sketchy” concept, lol. I’ve recently been overdosing on Battle Royale and superhero movies, and I suspect they’re starting to cloud my judgement, because the concept I’ve come up with is quite ridiculous. Many thanks for the luck 🙂 I’ll need it!

      • Michelle,
        Sometimes the more ridiculous the better. You can really let your imagination run wild in NaNo. Mine is in a totally different genre, but that’s a good thing. Experimentation can open new horizons. Good luck!

  2. Sometimes the “quickly written novel” turns out to be one of the strongest. Looking forward to reading your progress, CG!

  3. Been NaNoveling since 2008; last year was my first fail. While I considered not doing it this year because of time commitments, a story bud bounced down on my head, so I’m in.

    Side note– NaNo led me to a wonderful songwriting challenge site,. FAWM.org, that gave me a great community to work with– being there has helped me up my productivity as a songwriter, to the tune of several hundred new, good songs. NaNo just rocks in so many ways.

    Good luck to you all!

    • Mary,
      That’s so interesting about the songwriting competition. A couple of friends of mine are songwriters. I often think what they do is so much harder than writing. Good luck with NaNo this year.
      Thanks for your comment.
      Regards,
      Chris

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