There’s still two weeks
We’ve been talking all about October and Halloween, but I want to take a minute and talk about one of my favorite parts of November, while there’s still time left in Preptober, aka NaNoPrepMo.
Most nerds will already know about NaNoWriMo, which is shorthand for national novel writing month and takes place every November. It’s a community event with a goal to write 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel in the 30 days of November. That’s approximately 1667 words a day.
The rules of NaNoWriMo have changed just a bit over the years, most notably that originally you were to begin with a blank canvas on November 1st, but they’ve since updated the official rules to allow for working on already started works, as long as you write 50,000 additional words during the month of November.
However, the one rule that has always been present is that there really are no rules.
NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge, so as long as you meet your own writing goals you can count it as a win!
The idea behind the official rules is to give a specific challenge to the people who don’t really know what their challenge should be. If you want to write a memoir, go ahead! If you prefer a smaller goal of 30k that’s fine! If you don’t even want to measure your work in words, or if you want to edit instead of writing a first draft, those are okay. There’s a whole group of NaNo rebels just for you!
I have competed six times and won three times. And to be clear, winning at NaNoWriMo does not mean that you have any kind of quality on your hands. It just means that you got all 50,000 words down. There’s no selection process for winners, you just “verify” your word count and that’s it. And you get a shirt. But only if you buy it, and you can buy it whether you win or not.
There actually are some prizes for winners – free trials of writing-related software and things like that. And even some for all participants, so they can try out the software during November. A lot more companies want to get involved as NaNo gets more popular, but a lot of people also understand how easy it is to game the system and so the value of the prizes has degraded significantly over the years, in my opinion.
I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2011. And I won that year completely by the book (pun intended). I wrote 50,000 words of a brand new novel. Before November, I had a very detailed plot outline. I knew the entire route from beginning to end. There were a couple issues that came up, and then solved themselves through the actual storytelling, but mostly I just wrote along the outline, and getting to 50,000 words was easy.
I went back in January and finished the rest of the plot, ending around 120,000 words I believe. Pretty long, but less so for sci-fi.
I skipped 2012, but tried again in 2013, and failed miserably. I was pregnant with my gal Friday and was not in the right mindspace to get things done. I was, at the time, trying to approach writing as a career, except for the fact that I was too afraid of failure to actually write anything. I came up with an idea, but did no prep, and got almost no words written. Perfectionism sucks. Don’t succumb to it. (I’m talking to you, Mr. GRRM)
I tried yet again in 2014, and failed significantly less miserably. By that point, though, I had a six month old baby and hadn’t figured out how to carve out the time. Plus, I again did no prep or outlining. I had a story idea but didn’t know where it was going. I got several thousand words written, but then got out of the habit and gave up somewhere along the line.
Wins 2 & 3
I also won in 2016. And again in 2017. Those two years. I wrote the first part and the second part of series
In 2016. I outlined the entire story beforehand. It wasn’t as detailed in the plot as my 2011 outline, but I also did work on my characters and worldbuilding a lot more. It was amazing how easy it was to reach my word goal compared to the years I lost. In 2016 I wrote my 50,000 words in November and then came back to it in March the following year and finished the plotline of that novel.
Then in 2017 I followed some advice that suggested that if you’re struggling to get the words down that you should jump to the next scene that will be fun and easy for you to write. I did that a lot. I jumped around and I wrote many of the major plot points – though certainly not all of them. Mostly what I wrote was the easiest to accomplish plot points. I had only the most basic outline, and it was mostly done as I went.
There’s still a lot of tying things together and I found that in the following months I didn’t want to actually go back and finish it. For one because I already knew how it ended, and for two because I still didn’t have a good idea of how to get from point A to point B, to, you know Z.
Last year was when I decided to go full rebel and instead of working on a novel, make my goal to work on my (previous) blog every day. I believe my goal was a post a day, and 30,000 words. I’m not sure I wrote a single post…
Basically when I have committed myself to say, “Okay, I’m going to finish this year,” I’ve won. And the years that I haven’t done that I’ve not won. And prepping ahead of time has been crucial for me. Some people can go full pantser, but not me.
NaNoWriMo 2019 – it’s about time
For 2019, NaNoWriMo’s official theme is Time Travel, which is awesome because I love time travel plots and attempts to solve for the paradoxes (or, you know, not…) I don’t have any time travel plots in the works, but I do have some ideas for making my 2019 experience time-travel-relevant.
1. Time Goal
My goal this time around is going to be to work on the blog for 50 hours over the course of the month. In general, writing a thousand words in an hour is a pretty reasonable goal during NaNoWriMo, so 50 hours seems like a pretty fair goal.
I don’t intend to write during all that time. I have some specific goals for improving the website – like improving mobile responsiveness and updating the Tech(ish) deals with more regularity.
2. Time Management
Time management is something I will need to work on next month. It’s 3:30 AM right now as I’m writing this and I can’t keep working with 4 hours of sleep every night. So I intend to improve my own time management skills, then share what I learn with you, dear readers.
But it’s not just for me! MGF has been using some apps to help her learn time management as well. It’s not something either of her parents is good at, so I definitely want her to learn it from a young age.
3. Family Time
It’s kind of separate from time management, but as I work to get the most of my family time over the course of the month I’ll also talk with you about ways to optimize family time for quality.
Depending on how weird my moods get I may start talking about some weird ideas I have about time, time travel, dimensions, etc…
5. Time Travel
And that’s the last one. I’d love to write some short stories (on my own or with MGF) to share as blog posts. Maybe some will be about time travel!
Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements to the site, other than the ones I mentioned above. Hit me up in the comments on on Discord!
And go sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo! It’s really great to do with kids! Consider setting a time goal instead of a word count for little kids. Of course you won’t expect them to write 50,000 words, but what’s to stop you from doing 15-20 minutes of storytelling each night? You don’t even have to write it down if you prefer. It’s what Socrates would’ve wanted anyway.