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literature & technology: NaNoWriMo

November is fast approaching. For some, that means the end of another semester of uni or the start of summer. For the aspiring novelists of the world, that means gearing up for another NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an event where writers attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That amounts to 1667 words per day. It’s a little crazy, a little exhausting, and a little exhilarating, but plenty of fun. I’ve attempted this twice before, but am yet to reach the 50,000 word target. This year, I’m determined. I’ve cleaned my desk. I’ve cleared my mind. My idea is ready to go. I can only hope that my idea doesn’t dry up in ten thousand words and leave me stranded.

NaNoWriMo emerged from humble beginnings. The very first event took place with 21 participants in July 1999 in San Francisco. A group of friends decided it might be a good challenge to attempt to write a novel in a month. As you do. The following year, a friend of the participants offered to create a website for the event. This subsequently increased the number of participants to 140, attracting people from all over America, as well as Canada and a few international participants. Slowly, this idea grew and the month changed from July to November to ‘take advantage of the miserable weather’ (unfortunately, not so for the southern hemisphere participants), and now NaNoWriMo attracts more than 256,000 participants each year, from all over. The online location is crucial to the success of the event- it allows writers to connect with each other, it allows for electronic verification of word counts and creates a hub for the NaNoWriMo community.

But why? Why try to write a novel in a month? Apart from bordering on crazy, surely you can’t actually write a masterpiece in a month. Well, no. Personally, I don’t think you can. But that’s not what NaNoWriMo is about. It’s about throwing words down on the page, and producing a first draft, without the temptation of going back over your work to edit what you’ve written. You need to write before you can call yourself a writer, and, once you have your novel, you can always go back and edit it later. There are people who have managed to secure publishing deals from their NaNoWriMo novels. I edited my attempt from last year, and that novel has morphed into an eSeries I write for Big World Network called ‘Sleepwalking’, which is currently in its second season. It is also an excellent way of honing the craft of writing. Writing 1667 words per day enables writers to forge a writing routine, which they can hopefully keep at the conclusion of November (if they haven’t written themselves into a frenzy). It is also a great way to connect with other writers in your area. When you sign up for the event, you can choose your region. Each region has a coordinator, who sends through motivational emails throughout the month and organises local NaNo events, where you can meet other writers from your area.

This online community is really what makes NaNoWriMo what it is. Writing can be pretty isolated, holed up in front of the computer, typing away. It is so much fun to be caught up in an event with so many other writers, knowing that they are going through the same pain and passion that you are throughout the month. What’s more, the online community makes you more determined to achieve the word count. You can update your word count whenever you like throughout the month, by running your document through the online verification system, and your ongoing count shows up on your profile, for everyone to see. This definitely provides some much needed motivation to keep on target!

This year will be my third attempt. My previous best was 36,000 words, which I achieved last year. I was on track until I got sick halfway through and the thought of sitting at my computer thrashing out 1667 words got too much. I’m determined to reach the target this year, and my next two columns will be dedicated to my efforts: my next column will be halfway through NaNoWriMo and the next at the beginning of December, when the whole ordeal will be over for another year. If any lipsters are thinking about taking part, I can highly recommend it! It’s challenging, but also a lot of fun. For those of you who decide (or have already decided) to take part, good luck! Let’s hope we’re sitting on a novel by the first of December.

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