National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
For those of you who may not have heard of NaNoWriMo, it is a writing event that takes place during the month of November. Participants sign up to write a "novel" in one month. The goal is complete 50,000 words in 30 days. Don't worry about doing the math--it comes out 1,666.6666 words a day. Now 50,000 words isn't quite a novel, but it's a great start.
The writer should be starting a new manuscript. Some preliminary work, such as character sketches and plot outlines are allowed. Then on November 1st, the writing begins.
I've participated three times, and learned some great lessons.
1) If at first you don't succeed . . .
My first time attempting NaNoWriMo, I failed. Epic fail. Life reared its head, and I didn't start until 5 days in. Then I froze. My total word count for the month was about 1,500 words.
The following year, I made it to 25,000 words. Better, but not the goal. Still, it was 25,000 more words than I had at the beginning of the month.
On my third try, I made my 50,000 words and a bit more. So satisfying.
Sticking with it paid off.
2) Writing every day is a great habit to have.
Once I got in the groove and writing every day became the norm, it was much easier to maintain. I got to a point of missing it if I skipped a day.
3) It doesn't have to be great writing.
Putting out a predetermined number of words a day means only that you write that number of words, it doesn't mean that the result is brilliant. And that's okay. Especially in a first draft.
Occasionally, though, there are flashes. Because when you're writing every day, in the groove, your brain works on the story even when you're not writing. So you don't have that boot up time. You sit down and start. And sometimes you surprise yourself.
4) They're more like guidelines really.
The rules say that you will start a brand spanking new project. But what if you have a work in progress? Will the NaNo Police come and wipe out your manuscript?
They didn't take mine away.
See, I had a WIP that was halfway there. I didn't want to abandon it to start the next manuscript. So I finished the WIP during the second week then started the next one. The world didn't end. I finished my first manuscript, and got a great start on the second.
It's your project. Make it work for you.
I highly recommend trying NaNoWriMo. If you've tried before, and didn't make it to 50,000, try again. Maybe make your personal goal to get 1,000 more words than you did the first time. I think you'll be glad you did.