Starting tomorrow, on November 1st, the National Novel Writing Month officially begins. The goal is for a concentrated month in which participants aim for at least 50,000 words written during that month (even though novels are generally 80,000 words). However, they do admit that the length they choose makes most novels turn out to be short novels or even novellas. Their reason being:
We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.
NaNoWriMo is nonprofit organization and runs largely off donations and sponsors. Their main focus of prizes is simply that winners get the satisfaction of completing their novel, the winners being people who meet the writing goals. There is also a list of other prizes that winners get, such as 50% of the Scrivener writing software and other discounts to writing related perks. Also to boost their credibility they have sections dealing with media coverage of the event and a list of books published as a result of NaNoWriMo. One of the most famous novels published being Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants”.
There are a lost of obvious benefits of organizations like NaNoWriMo. It gets people in the spirit of writing and the motivation to hone their craft. It accounts people for how much of their goal they stick to and provides a healthy amount of peer pressure to fulfill that goal. And plus giving a hard deadline of November 30th drives a lot of people.
One unexpected downside of NaNoWriMo is that it floods the market with new novels all at once. I’m all for traditional publishing, but publishers feel a sharp surge during this time of year that makes the market even more competitive and highly saturated. This is felt with self-publishing as well. This year I’ll probably pay closer attention to the kindle market before and after NaNoWriMo to see the difference better. Some advice for participants would be to wait for the frenzy of NaNoWriMo to settle down, spend time watching the market and polishing your book, and then once that have quieted down attempt to publish.
Another consequence of NaNoWriMo is that writers often lose the urge to write any other time of the year. Everyone needs something that drives them, but with many writers they don’t feel the need to find that drive for any of the other eleven months. In a sense, people become overdependent on this one month. Something I would suggest to counteract this would be to set smaller, more easily reached goals for every month. There are thirty days in November, which means that to reach the official goal of 50,000 words people have to write a minimum of 1,667 words per day (rounded up from exactly 1,666.6 words). A noble goal for the other months would be just 1,000 words a day, which would generally come out to be 30,000 words per month.
The point is being obligated to write every single day. Depending on your working habits and your style, 1,000 words per day could take up anywhere from 30 minutes to 60+ minutes. Considering how much time all of us spend on the internet, watching movies, or just sitting doing nothing, I don’t think this is an unreasonable goal. Other people could change the goal from 1,000 words to 750 or even 500 depending on their priorities and work loads.
NaNoWriMo works better for some people than others. Some need that set date to drive them to complete their writing, others work out of their own motivation and find the date to be restricting. It really depends on your personality. Whether it works well for you or not, NaNoWriMo does have the best intentions at mind. I urge those interested to participate or at the very least to consider it. Due to current projects I won’t be participating, but I’m in no way against it. Chances are I’ll give it a try next year.