If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month (more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, or just plain NaNo), congratulations. You’re probably a nice, normal, sane individual with responsibilities, a social life and a healthy sleep schedule and I heartily suggest that you keep it that way and close this page straight away. If you’ve already heard of it, or even worse entered it before, I’m afraid it’s too late for you. The best hope is to attach yourself to an IV drip full of coffee and kiss your loved ones goodbye – at least for the next 30 days.
For those who didn’t already know and are now terrified about what weird cult they’ve stumbled upon, allow me to explain: NaNoWriMo is an annual event run by non-profit organisation The Office of Letters and Light which involves crippling yourself socially and emotionally for a month – that is to say, attempting to write 50,000 words or more in the 30 days of November. It’s really fun, I swear. You’ll only cry a few times.
If you haven’t been scared off yet, are feeling particularly masochistic or are completely insane, here are the five things you’ll need to do in order to ruin both your social life and emotional well-being in one go.
- Decide on a plot. Or don’t. That may sound terrifying, but it is a tradition for some to ‘pants’ it through November, or, to put it into non-NaNo speak, to make it up as you go along. This can mean anything from having a basic plot but no notes or plan to sitting down on November 1 without even having thought about it. Both planning and pantsing are equally valid and it’s whatever works for you. Me? I have a colour coded folder and mind maps.
- Have that conversation. If you’ve done NaNo before then you know the one I’m talking about.
“I’m doing NaNoWriMo next month.”
“NaNoWriMo. You write 50,000 words of a novel in a month.”
“So what do you win?”
“…50,000 words you wrote? A sense of achievement? Sleep deprivation?”
“Why are you doing it then?”
You then undergo the obligatory crisis and come out on the other side with strengthened resolve. Honest.
- Become aware of the other NaNoers. This can be anything from just acknowledging that they exist and that you are not alone in your madness to actually finding moral support on the NaNo forums to, in very extreme circumstances, leaving the house and actually socialising with them. Crazy, I know, but then this is NaNo, and anything can happen.
- Stop reading articles telling you how to do NaNo. I know that’s super hypocritical of me to say that in an article about how to do NaNo, but take it from a procrastination expert that once you’ve read the twentieth article on how to up your word count you’re not even fooling yourself that you’re being productive anymore. Seriously, stop it. Close this window and go and do some planning or something (please don’t really).
- Actually write the damn thing. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the only way to win NaNo is to write 50,000 words. There’s no shortcut, no neat tricks. It’s just you, your characters and a bucketload of coffee. And it’s fun. You’re creating. You weave plotlines, get to see your little characters develop (or get tortured emotionally and physically) and at the end you come out of it with a novel, or most of one, and it’s a wonderful feeling to look at something that you made.
So if you don’t mind losing all your friends and not seeing sunlight for a whole month, then I highly recommend National Novel Writing Month. It’s hard work, but boy is it satisfying, and at the very least it gives you an excuse to get high on sugar at 3AM.