NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month says that you can.
NaNoWriMo was set up by Chris Baty in 1999. He tried to write the first draft of a novel in a month. 21 friends joined him. Five of them reached the 50,000 words target they had set themselves. Now over 300,000 writers try it each year. In November 2014 I gave it a go too.
Theoretically you could do it any month but November is when the website is active, the word counter is live and the pep talks, forums and write-ins all get busy with fellow novelists struggling towards the same goal.
It sounds impossible. If you have a full time job or childcare responsibilities, you might wonder how on earth you can carve out the time to write 1666 words each day. But people manage it. They type on the trains, scribble scenes in their lunchbreak and create characters on their commutes – all chasing that 50,000 word ‘win’. Chris’ book No Plot, No Problem has some excellent time management suggestions to help you work out what spare time you actually have to write.
It’s an interesting change of pace. All good writers say that in order to improve as a writer, you just need to write. So many people – myself included – are scared of putting the words on paper in case they are rubbish. NaNoWriMo forces you to get those words out of your head and into sentences, paragraphs and eventually chapters.
You don’t have time to be scared about how good you are or to spend ages agonising over a particular word or phrase. Instead the focus is on getting the story down. It oils the wheels, makes new connections and brings out new ideas.
If you get scared that it’s all a load of rubbish, you can go on the forums and find others who are worrying about the same thing. There’s a lot of amazing encouragement to keep going, to keep writing regardless.
And I’m pleased to say that I won. I got 50,000 words and a whole plot to work with – which is more than I had in the month before. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect. After all I can edit rubbish – I can’t edit blank.