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NaNoWriMo: The Right Rite of Passage for Writers

by | Oct 13, 2011

by George Angus (@GeorgeAngus)

It’s quite a thrill for me to introduce you to George Angus, proprietor of Tumblemoose, his terrific blog for writers. He’s also got a pretty comprehensive Bookstore for Writers on his site. I’m sure I’ll be showing you a George Angus novel here before long. In the meantime, as a veteran of the madness known as National Novel Writing Month George agreed to explain exactly what all the fuss is about. Here’s his story:

There comes a time in every struggling novelist’s life when everything gets put aside and the writer within is allowed to flourish. That time is every November, during National Novel Writing Month—lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo. “Allowed” to flourish is probably not the most accurate description, though. I think that forced to flourish is more fitting. There is no time for “allowed.”

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is simple, really. Start and finish a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less. Gulp and yikes. A book in 30 days? That’s not something we’re allowed to do, is it? I mean, doesn’t the rule book forbid this kind of madness? You would think so, but once you get past the initial “this is madness” reaction it becomes clear that this business of writing a novel in 30 days is a very good thing.

If you are new to this concept, there is an important undercurrent that you need to realize: NaNoWriMo is all about quantity. From the outset, the folks at Nano acknowledge the fact that the most important component of this exercise is word count. Not plot points, not character development, not plot holes. It’s all a numbers game, baby. To that end, the NaNoWriMo web site is chock full of tools and graphs to help you and to encourage you along the way.

The Quantity Concept

I have a big problem when I write. I know a lot of my fellow scribes suffer with the same affliction. I edit as I go. I have to. It’s in my genes or something. Or maybe it’s OCD. I don’t know. Red squiggle lines under my text are my mortal enemy. As well, I need to have every sentence perfectly formed before I’ll allow my fingers to type the words onto the screen. This turns out to big a big time suck in terms of production, and herein lies the problem. If, as a writer, you have not completed your first major work and you are struggling to do so, I’ll bet it’s due (at least in part) to a perceived lack of progress. Understandable. Who wants to sit in front of a computer for three hours and end up with a single paragraph to show for their efforts?

NaNoWriMo by George AngusHere is where Nano really helps. If you are to complete your 50,000 novel in 30 days, you cannot operate in your normal, comfortable zone. You have to write about 2000 words a day, every day if you are going to be successful. The catch? Your novel is going to be awful. There, I said it. It will have plot holes you could drive a truck through. There will be forgotten characters, ziggy-zaggy plot lines and more than a few dead ends. Guess what? It’s all okay because we don’t care about that stuff right now. All we care about is having a 50,000 word manuscript at the end of 30 days that you can call your own. That’s all.

Editing and revising are for later. And make no mistake, there will be plenty of that. There will also be plenty of time for that. Just not in November. Or December, for that matter. You just spent a month mixing all your ingredients in a bowl and now you need time for them to settle. So, no looking at the danged thing for at least a month, okay? After that, go buy a supply of red pens and feel free to dig right in.


One of the coolest things about NaNoWriMo is the incredible support system. In addition to online tools that make it easy to track your progress, there are forums, local support groups and banners, to name a few.

The very best support system though, is the one you create. This is done by letting everyone in your world know that you’ve lost your mind and will be writing an entire book during the month of November. Your writing buddies will understand and give you your peace. Your friends will also be helpful by planning wild dinner parties and hosting movie nights where they’re buying. Well, that’s how it seems anyway.

Informing the world also has the added benefit of making it a lot more difficult for you to chicken-out or slack off. If you tell a hundred people that you’re doing this, that’s a hundred folks you have to face hat in hand if you opt for bowls of Cheetos in front of the ol’ wide-screen.

My Experience

Indulge me for a moment while I relate my NaNoWriMo experience from last year.

All I had was a title and a list of potential characters. I committed to getting up at 5am each day and doing my writing before my real day got going. It was tough, but I never faltered. The first three days were troublesome indeed and then something very interesting happened. The story walked in, booted me out of the chair and took over. I didn’t have to struggle with where the story was going because the story showed up and went wherever the heck it wanted. Characters did and said incredible things, scenes developed and pushed their way through. In short, I got the heck out of the way and let things happen. I didn’t try and edit. I didn’t ponder scenes. I let go.

And I finished 4 days early.

Do It

I’ll leave you with this: Every writer should do NaNoWriMo at least once. If you are not making progress on your work in progress then you have to give it a shot. I think it could change your entire perspective on writing.

It’s easy enough to get started. Go to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up. It’s free and easy.

If You Go

Please drop a line and let us know how things went. Feedback, perspective, insight are great but you can also just cuss me out if ya want.

George Angus in his own words:
George AngusGeorge is kind of ridiculous guy who enjoys writing and writing about writing. When he’s not fending off the cold Alaska winters, he’s most likely hanging with his favorite person in the world, his 8 year old daughter. His website is www.tumblemoose.com

Ed. Note: For more NaNoWriMo resources, check out the Nano University.

Keyboard photo by Striatic

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