It’s November and that means it’s another year for Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a website where you can sign up and then spend the month of November furiously writing a novel.  The aim of the game is to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month and submit it to Nanowrimo, where they confirm you’ve reached the goal and you become one of the chosen members of Nanowrimo to complete that goal.

Lots of writers have differing opinions on Nanowrimo.  Some think it okay and harmless, while others detest it as something to force people to write quickly in a short amount of space and therefore churn out nothing of substance.  Me?  I’ve done Nanowrimo twice: the first time I completed most of my novel Kyra, and the second time I completed about half of my novel Nothing is an Accident.  I will say that if you have absolutely nothing to work on except a vague concept for a novel or simply an idea, you may have trouble completing the fifty thousand words; though if you have a roughly plotted and outlined book (like with Kyra), or some understanding of where your book is headed (Nothing is an Accident), then you can definitely not just make your goal, but also create a decent novel out of it.

The key to surviving and keeping your head and body afloat — at least I found — is to have a daily word tracker — I use an Excel spreadsheet — and that way you know exactly how much to complete each day to stay on target.  On some days I’d get ahead and be able to slack off a bit, on others I needed to catch up.  I also recommend making the goals a little higher than usual so that you don’t have to hit the final mark on the last day of the month.

Also Nanowrimo offers some nifty merchandise.  I got a t-shirt from them that lasted quite a while, and one of my favorite mugs with a guy holding a giant pencil and the words “Novelist Fuel.”

Regardless of how you view Nanowrimo as a catalyst to create a work of writing, it nevertheless makes one write, which is worth more than anything in the world when one is unable to, too lazy to, or simply not compelled to bother.  And for those looking for a worthy something to achieve in their lives, writing a 50,000 word story or novel or novella or whatever you want to call it is definitely something worth being proud of.

My problem was I wasn’t done with my book by the end of Nanowrimo, even though I hit my goal both times.  The hard part then was finishing my manuscripts without the constant pressure (or perhaps safety net) of Nanowrimo.  But I did at least learn some useful skills and ways of writing under a deadline for Nanowrimo that I greatly appreciate, and each time I start a novel now, I use a daily word counter . . . and boy do I feel guilty when I spend more time chilling out, having fun, or writing posts instead of writing the damn book.

Thanks Nanowrimo for making me a better writer in those aspects.