Around the world this weekend, writers of all shapes, sizes and experience are at the starting line of a literary marathon.
November means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where more than 300,000 participants are given the goal of writing an entire novel - 50,000 words in just 30 days. This year, NaNoWriMo writers are also aiming to raise a massive $1.3 million to help bring free creative writing programs to nearly 500,000 kids and adults in 200 countries. For the second year in a row, I am taking my place among them.
Some people will be taking a ‘pantser’ approach. They haven’t planned; they’re simply putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards and diving in, letting the words take them where they will.
Others, like me, are planners. Last year I nailed down every chapter and many scenes before I started. I used a pyramid approach, starting with a one line description of my novel and working it layer after layer until I was ready to write. I am a NaNoWriMo winner and thrilled that despite the challenges of two small children and other work I achieved the 50,000 word target. I remember sitting dazed and bewildered at my computer as December rolled in, trying to process the fact I had just written the first draft of a novel – and some of a second … wow. Re-reading the draft, so much of it felt as if a stranger had written it. During the month I had burnt the dinner, left washing undone and slept far less than necessary, but I did it.
Well this year I’m trying something a little different. I’ve done less micro planning and instead focused on what my key plot points are and at approximately what point in the word count they should appear - the incidents that keep my tension rising, my midpoint reversal and my ultimate climax. I’ve also spent lots of time with my characters, learning about them and trying to find their voices and stories. I can now easily slip into my fictional world and I can’t wait to see how they manage to overcome the challenges about to come their way.
Adding writing every day to my other commitments, including the print deadline for a magazine I edit, is both daunting and exhilarating. I am giving myself permission to follow my writing dreams and a reason to keep going every day – no matter how hard it gets.
I’m thrilled to be able to share my NaNoWriMo journey with you again this year. I’m sure it’s going to be rollercoaster ride. So strap in and let the NaNoWriMo adventure begin!