Most people are procrastinators to some degree. So you’ve probably had this experience: once you’re coming up on a deadline for something, you can suddenly, magically do it.
That’s the idea behind NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”, in which participants from all over the world each attempt to write a 50,000-word story during the month of November.
Do, or do not. There is no “[attempt]”.
…in which participants from all over the world write 50,000-word stories during the month of November. With the idea being that with a deadline—along with the support of several others in your local area and several thousand others online—you can accomplish anything.
My own NaNo history has been a little shaky. After spending a bit of time at the end of high school in a club called “Writer’s Guild”, I was convinced in my first year of college to attempt NaNoWriMo by a couple of different friends (one of whom was interning at the non-profit that runs the thing, the Office of Letters and Light). My story was a pile of characters with no plot to speak of, but I made it to 50,000 words!
The next year I stepped my participation up a notch and made it out to what are called write-ins, meet-ups with other writers at cafés (or wherever) to (a) meet fellow “WriMos”, and (b) set aside time deliberately for writing. (Sometimes it helps to get out of the house.) These write-ins were a lot of fun, if not exactly more productive for me, but I once again made it to 50,000 words, with a story that could be summarized as “teaching computer science via narrative”. (If you’ve read Edwin A. Abbot’s Flatland, and particularly Ian Stewart’s spin-off/sequel Flatterland, you’ll know what I mean. Both books recommended.)
In my final two years at Berkeley, I joined a performance group (Theatre Rice), and also signed up as a TA for a lower-division CS class. With both a midterm to grade and a show to put on in November, NaNoWriMo was sort of a non-starter. In the fall after I graduated, I did try to write a fantasy story in the world of Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons (also recommended), but got sick in the middle. Plus I was kind of busy with the whole going to Cambodia thing. So that story was not finished.
It’s now 2012. I have both a steady job and a place to live…and no other commitments. If I don’t do NaNoWriMo this year, when will I?
…And you should too! Everyone’s busy, but that should not be an excuse not to do cool new things. For the rest of your life you can say you wrote a novel. Or at least a draft of a novel.
My NaNoWriMo user name is “chigaijin”. See you on the site!