This November, thousands of aspiring writers across the globe will come together in an event described by its creators as ‘30 days and nights of literary abandon.’ This event is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those who like to abbreviate, and its goal is for as many people as possible to write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days – or 1667 words each day. It was founded by Chris Baty in 1999, when he decided ‘what I really needed to do was write a novel in a month. Not because I had a great idea for a book. On the contrary, I had no ideas for a book.’ This sums up NaNoWriMo in a nutshell – it’s not about churning out a masterpiece at the end of the month; however cheesy it sounds, it’s the taking part that counts – having fun, meeting other writers, and maybe even surprising yourself with finding an occasional diamond in the gibberish you’ve typed over the last month. In its first year, NaNo had 21 participants, only 6 of whom managed over 50,000 words, yet by 2010, there were over 200,000 participants, who collectively wrote almost 3,000,000,000 words. This year, there are set to be even more.
I first discovered NaNoWriMo in 2008, at the ripe old age of 15. I think I managed to write about 3,000 words about vigilante superheroes (I know, I know) before giving up, lamenting the fact that I was an awful writer and by extension a failure at life. This huff lasted almost two years before I sucked it up and took part in the 2010 event. I didn’t quite reach 50,000, but I wrote more than I had the previous time and so, filled with determination, I tried again last year.
Somehow, despite going into week four about 20,000 words behind, I managed to scrape 50,000 words with half an hour to go before submissions closed. I still haven’t properly read over the finished product, which if I recall involved dragons, inter-dimensional portals, and talking Golden Retrievers (and it’s probably a good idea that it never again sees the light of day), but let me tell you, the feeling of accomplishment I had when the little winner’s badge popped up over my profile picture is something that even now still makes me proud. That’s why, despite the exams, class tests and horrible sounding essay questions currently piling up before me, I’m doing it again this year.
So join in, even if just to have a break from the constant studying sure to swamp us in the next month and a bit. How jealous are those folks in the library going to be while they struggle over a difficult essay, whilst opposite them you’re pounding away at your laptop, looking like the most diligent student in the whole ofSt Andrews? Look at it this way – 500 words or 50,000, it’s more than you’d have written if you didn’t take part. And just think, how many people can say they wrote a novel before they finished University? (After all, you don’t need to actually show it to anyone!).