You want to be a novelist.
Come on, admit it: it’s your lifelong goal to write an entire narrative, start to finish, with a complete cast of characters and a good wholesome plot. There are just a million and one excuses standing in your way, too, right?
Wrong. Writing a novel is easier than you think. Sort of.
Let’s whip out the Merriam-Webster’s for a second here: nov·el·ist [noun]: a writer of novels.
Oh, okay. Well, simple as that; write a novel, you are a novelist. You do not need to be published, no one has to actually read your book, and it could be the worst thing ever written by any living entity in the entire history of the universe. So long as you put your story down into a narrative of an appropriate length you are a novelist.
Actually sitting down to write that novel . . . that’s another story.
NaNoWriMo might be able to help. It is, to abandon that cryptic acronym that has tantalized you for so many paragraphs, National Novel Writing Month. If you haven’t figured out quite what that means yet then allow me to elaborate.
The National Novel Writing Month is an annual event that occurs each November, since NaNoWriMo was first started in 1999. It runs through the entire month, from Nov. 1 to the very last second of the last minute of the last hour of the last day. During those 30 days the goal is simple: write a novel; specifically, a 50,000-word novel.
Yes, it sounds like madness, and that is exactly what NaNoWriMo is — madness, but in a good way. To come up with a plot that makes sense and put it into words in 30 days is a frantic endeavour, but also a lot of fun.
The point of NaNoWriMo is simple: produce a cohesive narrative without any hesitation and without any editing. There is only raw production without any fine tuning. As the official website for the event states, “the ONLY thing that matters [ . . . ] is output.” During the month you can only move forward, no looking back on what you have written until Dec. 1.
And there is certainly no stopping, 50,000 words is the goal for NaNoWriMo. That’s a devil’s delight of at least 1,666 words every day for the entire month. That may sound daunting enough already, but look at it another way — the NaNoWriMo organizers suggest that the 50,000 word limit translates into roughly 175 pages. Spread over the month, that’s about six pages per day. Six pages every day, with no breaks, no days off.
The people behind NaNoWriMo, the nonprofit Office of Letters and Light, realize the ridiculousness of their challenge.
“Make no mistake,” reads the NaNoWriMo website, “you will be writing a lot of crap.”
The NaNoWriMo website offers the ability to sign up with your own account. Making an account not only allows you to post to the forums, but it also means you are recognized as an official participant. As an official participant you can regularly post your word count for the scrutiny of others as November progresses, and at the end of the month you can submit your completed novel for verification. Assuming you were successful and reached that 50,000 word limit, you are then added to the Winner’s Page and are awarded both a certificate and a fancy badge.
And what about if you don’t quite reach the 50,000 word goal on or before 11:59:59 p.m. Nov. 30? If you are an official participant of NaNoWriMo, then it means you don’t get any recognition or prizes. Bummer.
Even so, you probably have a whole bunch of words written down. Maybe you got to 40,000 words — that’s still an impressive achievement. Or maybe you tried your hardest and only got down a couple thousand, and now you realize you’re not cut out for an event as frenetic as NaNoWriMo.
In any case, you have some words written — don’t let them go to waste! Just because November is over that doesn’t mean you can’t finish your (perhaps not-so-) great novel. Keep plugging on that sucker as fast as you can, don’t stop until it’s done.
Whether you finish your novel in 30 days or 30 months doesn’t matter, so long as you finish that book you are a novelist. It does not matter if you’re published or even recognized — if you are the only person in the entire universe that knows you completed your novel, you are still a novelist.
Just let that sink in: you can be a novelist.
Let National Novel Writing Month at least help you get started with it. This author was too busy planning his own craptastic novel to get this information out to you sooner, so oops — if you’re reading this, we’re well into November! Nine days are gone. You’ve got exactly three weeks left to make those 50,000 words. Hop to it and get to work!
Twenty-one days left. Have you got what it takes to be a novelist? Go find out.
And hey, if you don’t succeed — maybe because you’ve already missed almost a third of the month — there’s always next year. Or, if you can’t wait that long, who is to say you can’t have an unofficial novel writing month of your own in the month of your choosing?
For more information on National Novel Writing Month, and to sign up as an official participant, visit nanowrimo.org.