It’s endever* now – hi!
I… can’t actually recall, at this point, who first got me into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? Probably some unschooler or another. Not even remotely being a novelist, I was resistant for awhile. But then again – most people aren’t novelists, are they? And plenty of them participate in Nano.
I dipped my toes in as a “rebel” – that’s where you participate in the main event during November, but you choose to bend the formal rules (50,000 words of an original novel in 30 days is the primary guideline that month) and so can’t actually “win”. My first year, I set a goal of 50,000 words of anything – poetry, journal entries, even epic emails – and pulled it off. The next year, I aimed for 10,000 words of poetry – and sure enough, pulled it off! I don’t know if I can adequately convey the momentum this community gives me. I mean, I’ll log into the forums and there’s a little note at the bottom of the page telling me how many tens of thousands of people (or more?) are logged on at that very second, and I think: if there are this many of us, strangers, around the world, perhaps with nothing in common, pouring ourselves into our writing RIGHT NOW… there’s got to be some magic there, right? We must be drumming up a collective energy, spinning some kind of ethereal web made of word counts and ticking clocks and sheer desperate hope, pleading with our huge chorus of voices to the Muses to please, please, help us get through this next sentence.
Maybe it was being part of that magic (in my initial tertiary capacity) that got my brain started on an idea for a novel? All I know is that between a certain two Novembers a story grew inside of me. A story I’ve wanted to read my whole life, but that I’ve never yet found on a bookshelf. Maybe it’s a story that only I can write. But… dare I? Just me, a part-time poet? NaNo’s answer to that question is always a resounding yes. Yes: dare it. Yes: you really can pull it off. Yes: trying to write a novel in 30 days is an absurd, wild, terrifying idea, but we’re all trying it anyway too.
It turns out 50,000 words wasn’t nearly enough to tell my story, but I did get that much down within the 30 days. Since then that first book has grown in to a 100k+ draft – the first installment in an eventual trilogy. I’ve used NaNos and Camp NaNos since then to begin to edit that one, and to draft the second in the trilogy as well. As far as I can tell, all 200k+ words-so-far would still be inside of me – and not even remotely organized, mind you – if NaNoWriMo didn’t exist. Now for this upcoming session of camp, my goals are similar to GeGi’s – 30 hours of research (and possibly some editing) for my trilogy. I’ve already started cataloguing topics and collecting bookmarks.
Here’s what to expect, by the way, should you be interested:
During the event, famous/”successful” writers send us pep talks. In NaNo forums, participants give each other inspiration, problem-solving ideas, research leads, spare characters that need good homes, worldbuilding worksheets, stray names we don’t know what to do with, all manner of distractions for anyone sick of staring at their novel, and that intangible support and momentum I find priceless. The website provides stats and graphs based on word count thus far – which I refresh obsessively, of course – so I always know how many words per day I’m averaging and how much left I have to go. Regular emails remind us to back up our novels, and local organizers send out invites to in-person meetups and write-ins (which I have yet to brave, being my anxious/autistic/introverted self). Various goodies await winners – for example, huge discounts on software built for novelists as well as ebook/print self-publishing options – and it seems like there’s always an extended free trial of Scrivener available for any participants who want to try it out.
Okay, have I sold you? Because here’s the thing: it’s free. It runs on donations, so I definitely encourage everyone to contribute whatever you can – but assuming you already have access to the Internet in some form, there are zero economic barriers preventing you from participating. As GeGi mentioned, there seems to be no shortage of queer folks to connect with, there’s definitely writers from every age group, and I’ve even found forum threads for disabled folks to discuss how they’re managing their time/energy and general support threads for anyone coping with mental illness as they write.
The moral of the story: join us! No pressure to hop in at the last second for this session of Camp (although admittedly I’ve started NaNo events three days late sometimes; you can certainly do it), but at some point, I hope you’ll do yourself this favor. Even if you only get partway to your goal – and hell, even if you don’t like half of the work you do complete – you’ll be a LOT farther along with your writing than you were at the outset.
In any case, expect that we might share some assorted NaNo-related moaning and flailing and glee here as we octopi go camping this April… but no, you may NOT eat any of my s’mores.