50,000 words in one month. Is that really the ultimate aim of NaNoWriMo? I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo (& Camp NaNo) on and off for 10 years now. I’ve won 4 times, and despite the greater number of times I’ve failed, I no longer think 50,000 words in a month is a lot. Every year there are “overachievers” on the NaNo forums who attempt (and often succeed) in writing 50,000 words in a day. And before you counter with, “they probably wrote drivel”, well it’s possible some of them did, but I happened to read one and it was good. Really good.
A reasonable typist can achieve 3000 words an hour, if they have a few cups of coffee and don’t stop to think. 4 hours gives you 10,000 words, with a break in the middle. It’s exhausting, but exhilarating - you have to try it at least once in life. I’ve talked to professional writers who balk at the thought of writing more than 1000 words a day. I’m sure they have many prize-worthy sentences which have taken them hours to construct, but what a pity they haven’t felt the adrenalin rush of their fingers racing against the clock, descending into unpunctuated misspelt sentences that run on like you’re going down a hill too fast to stop and it feels like your legs are only following your body and you reach the bottom and you’re out of breath and your eyes are stinging and you’ve gone way beyond your word count. Congratulations! This is why hundreds of thousands of people return to do NaNo year after year.
So as a NaNo veteran, my recommendations are as follows:
- redefine your notion of “lots of words”;
- push WAY past the boundaries of your (word) limit;
- delight in writing without thinking;
- write or die (kamikaze mode);
- blow your mind with more epiphanies than you’ve had all year;
- realise in January that in the mud of your “drivel” lie unnoticed diamonds. Hey, you’re not a bad writer after all, and what’s more, you’re a wroter, not a will-writer.
Ask yourself, am I afraid of writing 50,000 words or am I afraid of writing drivel?
National Novel Writing Month is a misnomer; it’s neither national nor is its purpose to write a novel. The purpose is literary abandon: abandon perfectionism, abandon excuses, abandon yourself. Abandon fear all ye who enter here.