November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in thirty days.
It doesn’t matter if what you write is rubbish, all that matters is that you write. On the face of it, that seems dumb, but there is some very sound thinking behind it:
- To achieve that target you will have to write every day. The barrier to most prospective writers is finding the time to write. Attempting NaNoWriMo forces you to find some time every day. I suspect that most find that it’s a lot easier than they thought it would be.
- You can’t afford to edit what you write. There’s no time, so everything goes down, however stupid it seems, no words wasted. There’s a critic in our heads (we all have one, even successful authors) telling us that what we’re writing is worthless. We sit down to write and every thought gets censored before it ever reaches the page. We need to learn to to silence that voice of doubt and write. Editing comes later. A month of bludgeoning the critic with drivel should make it easier.
- Most of all, you get to write for fun. There’s no conceit that anyone else will read what you’ve written, let alone pay for it. If it’s not for fun then what is it for? NaNoWriMo is a good way to find out if you really like writing enough to want to take it seriously.
I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, which might come as a surprise when I’ve been so positive about it. But the reasons are quite straightforward:
- I have learned to create time for writing. I write every morning (except when the mice interfere), so I don’t need NaNoWriMo to teach me to do that.
- My inner critic gets a daily reminder to shut up. Julia Cameron, author of many excellent books about writing, recommends a discipline she calls ‘Morning Pages’. Three sides of handwritten words. Anything that comes to mind, whatever is bothering you, write it down. Sometimes it’ll be exploring a plot problem, sometimes moaning about the weather or that the coffee has run out. But by the time the pages are done, the fingers are warmed up and the inner critic is cowering in the corner. It works. I recommend it.
- And finally, I know how much pleasure I get from writing. I’m not just writing a novel this month, I’m writing a (bit of a) novel every month. And I’m not writing them to make my fortune, not that I’d complain if they did, but because I love writing.
Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year. If you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late!