I have a confession to make.
Before I started working at StoryStudio, I was a little skeptical of NaNoWriMo. Okay, maybe more than a little.
NaNoWriMo, for the unfamiliar, is short for National Novel Writing Month, a nonprofit that challenges writers to complete a 50,000-word novel, start to finish, during November. It’s a daunting task, but one that 325,142 writers took on last year.
So why wasn’t I on board with something that gets hundreds of thousands of people writing each year? I wasn’t so sure about the idea that a novel was something you could “win” by writing 50,000 words. And why wasn’t I allowed to start working on my novel before November? What if I wanted to write essays or short fiction? Besides, I was a writer all year round– why should someone who only wrote during November get to call themselves a novelist?
Luckily, the writers here at StoryStudio quickly changed my mind. Sure, plenty of writers take on the literal challenge of starting a brand-new novel the morning of November 1st and sprinting to the 50,000 word mark by midnight on the 30th. But just as many use NaNoWriMo as a way to boost the writing they’re already doing. To them, NaNoWriMo isn’t a game where they write for one month and that’s it. It’s a way to step up their daily writing practice and add 50,000 words to projects that were already important to them.
And that’s what I’ve come to love about NaNoWriMo. The spirit of it– joining writers around the world to take on a big, crazy challenge– is so fun and exciting that you’ll get a huge benefit from it even if you’re not playing by the rules 100%.
Here are my tips for getting the biggest boost to your writing out of this year’s NaNoWriMo:
1. You don’t have to start from scratch.
If you’re anything like me, you have a couple hundred words, a lot of post-it notes, and something that sort of resembles an outline, all for that novel you’ve been kinda starting to work on for the last year (or more). Why start something new? Use NaNoWriMo to log your progress on that novel. As for the bits and pieces you already have written? Count them in your total, or don’t– at the end of the day, what’s important is the progress you make.
2. If you are starting a new novel, do a little planning.
Just because you want to start a new novel on November 1st doesn’t mean you need to go in with no ideas. NaNoWriMo Jumpstart can help you get on the right track. Pro tip: outlines and character sketches done before NaNoWriMo begins don’t count towards your word count, so it’s not cheating!
3. That said, it’s totally okay to cheat.
No, it’s not okay to lie about your word count. What I mean is, it’s okay to create your own challenge for NaNoWriMo. You can write 50,000 words of a memoir, or essays, or short stories. Even 50,000 words of blog posts or business writing is an awesome challenge! If you’re editing, or writing poetry or flash fiction, challenge yourself to a certain number of hours per day of work, or a certain number of pages or poems.
4. Get in on the fun.
Even though it involves a lot of hard work typing away at your novel, NaNoWriMo is basically a month-long festival of writing. There are get-togethers at coffee shops and libraries, plus Twitter chats and more fun online. StoryStudio will be hosting not one but two NaNoWriMo Write-Ins! You may be writing more this November than you ever have before, but you certainly won’t be doing it alone.
Happy NaNoWriMo, everybody. Enjoy the boost.