National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo crest

Today marks the end of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It is the first time I participated, and it definitely won’t be my last!

The point of NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words towards a novel, during the month of November. That boils down to 1,667 words per day.

Well, I didn’t even come close to the goal. I will finish the NaNoWriMo today with 15,780 words, and I am actually quite happy with that!

I wish I could have written more, but work, a trip to visit family, and a visit by family, took precedence. We all have priorities. I’m not a full-time writer.

But wow, did I ever learn a lot! NaNoWriMo forced me to do several things:

  • To decide on a specific genre, topic and title for a novel.
  • To make a good guess at the eventual length of the novel.
  • To define characters, their internal and external conflicts, and their story arcs.
  • To write dialogue.
  • To choose pivotal scenes through which to tell the story.
  • To determine point of view and voice.
  • To establish my work flow, which for me was to first outline the story before I felt ready to start writing.
  • To find the right physical space, ambiance, and frame of mind for writing.
  • To set specific goals for each writing session.
  • To write in an interesting, story-telling fashion, as opposed to the precise, non-fiction writing that is burned into me as a result of my medical education and career.

15,000 words gets me a long way toward my novel, which I have estimated to be in the 120,000-150,000 word range typical of science fiction stories. Theoretically, at this pace I could finish it in 10 months. Presumably I would get better at it, and faster, so I could possibly finish it in less than 10 months. Then again there is the matter of editing, second and thirds drafts, etc., which could delay the novel’s completion by an unknown amount of time. In any event, I now have a road map for the novel, a growing toolbox of writing knowledge and skills, and a good start!

As a side benefit, I am again more interested in reading. That seems to come and go in my life. But now I will read with a better appreciation of the writers’ styles, and will hopefully learn even more about writing in the process.

If you have ever thought about writing a book, I strongly encourage you to consider NaNoWriMo next year! Start early by deciding on a genre, topic and title. Think about characters, settings, etc. Set up an outline if you like to work that way. There is a lot of prep work you can do before the NaNoWriMo actually starts.

Oh, and BTW, get Scrivener and learn how to use it! (This is not a paid advertisement. I just believe there is no better tool for writers than this outstanding software.)