National Novel Writing Month is an annual event to challenge people to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. That breaks down to 1, 667 words a day - every day - for a solid month. Some writers can do that in their sleep, and yay for them, but for some of us that truly is a challenge. The story may not be flowing smoothly every day, and regular non-writing life can frequently intrude. But during NaNo, participants try to power through the days when the muse runs off to Vegas and the day job/housework/family/everything else demand attention. The point of NaNo is simply to write. You don't have to write well, you don't have to edit as you go even if you normally do at least some revising while the story is in its first draft. You don't have to think about it too much, because frankly you don’t have the time to put too much thought into your manuscript with such a tight deadline. All you have to do is write.
That's not saying you can't outline beforehand, though. I'm normally mostly a pantser but I'm trying to get better at outlining in order to cut down on revisions and rewrites. Right now I've got the first third of my NaNo project outlined, with a pretty good idea of what the second third is going to be like. Sometime before the first of November, when NaNo starts, I'm going to work out the rest of the outline so I'm ready to go.
This will be my third NaNo. In 2008 I started Bring On The Night but didn't finish it in November and didn't get the story to fifty thousand words. In 2009 I finished, which was terrific, but the novel was such a mess I never did anything with it. (It did give me a character that will probably show up in another story eventually, though.) That's the main reason I wanted to outline this year. I'd like to not only finish this year, but have something that might be revised into a manuscript worth submitting.
I won't lie to you - it can make for a rough month. Especially the last week or so, as we head into the holidays. But pouring that much energy into a work that quickly can also give you a sort of drunken, heady buzz that helps you get through the dark moments when you feel like you couldn't possibly write another word. After I finished last year I said to myself, ok, this is something I've done and I'm never doing it again. Never. But when the first of October rolled around and I started seeing other writers talking about it online, I felt the temptation pull me back in. It can definitely lead to a reckless, slap-dash sort of writing, but it's also fun. In an "OMG I just ran across six lanes of traffic on a Friday night" sort of way.
After the first you can follow my progress at my blog or at my NaNo profile. If you're doing NaNo yourself, feel free to add me as a writing buddy and I'll do the same.
If you're doing NaNo for the first time, just remember to have fun with it, don't stress if you don't finish, and most important of all - caffeine is your friend.