NaNoWriMo: Will You Take Up the Challenge?

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Solnushka wants us to know about…


Three books on a victory podium

NaNoWriMo, in the words of its creators,

is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

This year we at Create are encouraging intrepid h2g2ers to take part.

To help you all get in the mood and find out what you might be taking on, we’ve asked some of last year's participants some questions.

A polkadot typewriter

How many times have you taken part?

[Toybox] Just once, in 2010. I hadn't really heard of the event before (or not really taken notice).

[Happy Nerd] Only once, last year.

[Persephone] Twice so far.

Why did you decide to take part?

[Toybox] For fun! For glory! And the right to call myself an 'author' ;-)

[Persephone] Someone put a poster with the words “Write a Novel” in big shiny letters where I could see it. The second year I just wanted to see what would happen to my characters next.

[Happy Nerd] Dunno.

Did you complete the 50k?

[Happy Nerd] No, only 42K.

[Persephone] Yes...if the occasional rambling rant can be included in the word count.

[Toybox] Yes I did. I sweat blood and water, and got a shiny badge for the effort.

[Create] Oooooh a shiny badge? Tell me more!

[Toybox] Ah, you get a badge at the NaNoWriMo page once it is checked that your novel is long enough. And you can display it proudly! You can find mine on this blog entry for example.

What is your book about?

[Persephone] I dumped a group of teenagers in a dream world. Then I set whatever monsters my imagination could churn out on them. What can I say? I’m cruel to my characters.

[Toybox] Hmmm... Some sort of variation on the Orpheus and Eurydice story. A rather pathetic guy's dream of getting back his partner after breaking up, if I remember well.

[Happy Nerd] You mean November 2011's book? Good question. Maybe it will be about a group of internet weirdos who band together to buy their own site when a corporate entity puts it up for sale.

Describe your favourite character.

[Pesephone] The bad guy! He mostly just sits behind a desk and gloats. Very easy to write.

[Toybox] I don't really remember the characters... Truth be told, I didn't really care much for them anyway. It seems I'm quite bad at depicting interesting characters, they all end up boring and hollow.

[Happy Nerd] Ahhhhhh, ummmmm, lemme get back to you on that.

* Makes a note: 'must sketch out characters' *

Describe your favourite moment in the book.

[Toybox] The end! Finished at last!

[Happy Nerd] Errrrr, hmmmm gee, it's hard to pick just one

* Makes a note: ' must develop plot, story line' *

Did you carry on working on the book after November?

[Happy Nerd] Last November? Um, for a while, but then there was this website that needed saving. Long story.

[Persephone] No. It’s just sitting there on my hard drive waiting to be edited. I might get around to it in a couple of years.

[Toybox] Oh no, I didn't touch the file after putting the final stop, not even to read it again.

For me, the book was just a byproduct of this NaNoWriMo event. The writing process was important, seeing how and if I could churn out 50,000 words in a more or less coherent fashion, in one month. I ended up writing in a dispassionate, almost clinical fashion, with very little emotion or empathy for the story and characters.

What was the best thing about taking part?

[Happy Nerd] There was this moment, where I took a break from writing to put together some supper, and was glad I was eating alone so I could read at the table. I wanted to get to back to the book I was reading! Then I realized that I wasn't reading it, I was writing it.

[Toybox] Ending up with the badge ;-) Finding out whether I had it in me to finish up this large task. Finding ways to keep the machine going even when I lacked motivation.

[Persephone] I actually finished a story I started. I’m terrible at getting to the end...or the middle.

What was the most difficult?

[Happy Nerd] Getting started. It got easier as the month progressed, but it was an uphill battle. I really had to work myself up to the point where I could embrace the idea of writing drivel.

[Toybox] Finding ways to get me going even when I lacked motivation! Letting go of the idea that I should care about the book.

All those NaNo discussions, where other writers are delightfully describing their best scenes or favourite characters, I found rather depressing. Until one day, I decided that this was not the way I wanted to play, and that my way – focus on writing, not on the book – was as legitimate as anyone else's.

[Persephone] Those last four thousand words. I miscalculated and started the ending too soon. It was just rambling filler for a bit there and now it’s too linked in with setting up the ending to just delete.

Did you hit a wall?

[Happy Nerd] Not really.

[Toybox] Not really. Once the focus was set on writing, I had access to a whole arsenal of wall-piercing devices which could make me progress automatically without much thinking. Even the legendary "Week Two Curse", when many writers experience a block or give up, seems to have passed miles above my head.

[Persephone] Not really. There’s always another mad monster waiting in the back of my brain. I really feel sorry for my main characters. I think they spend the other 11 months of the year recovering.

What got you through to the end?

[Persephone] I was just waiting to see what would happen to my characters next. Like many of the people who took part, my characters sometimes acted without my permission.

[Toybox] An obstination I never knew I had in me. Seeing myself at the end of the month with 50,000 words behind me.

(Or why did you stop?)

[Happy Nerd] The sudden appearance of midnight on November 30th.

How much preparation did you do?

[Happy Nerd] Practically none. That was my first attempt at fiction.

[Persephone] Preparation?

[Toybox] None at all. The decision to take part was taken pretty much at the last moment, after toying with the idea for a while but basically rejecting it. And a few days before November, I though, why not? and dived head first into the cold water.

Have you got any tips for anybody thinking about giving it a go?

[Persephone] The maths is that you’ve got to write 1666 or more words each day. Work out how long it will take you to write that much and schedule that into your day. People who just try to slip in whenever usually run out of time.

And coffee helps a lot too.

[Happy Nerd] Yeah. Figure out how much time it takes you to write 50,000 words and make sure to schedule that in earlier in the month. Don't edit until after you have made your word limit.

[Toybox] What worked for me was:

Don't be shy, go ahead! Nothing to lose, shiny badge to win :-D

Don't bother about what others do and say; NaNoWriMo is a battle against yourself, and no one else. Avoid NaNo discussions if these demoralize you.

And do take one day off from writing every now and then.

Would you do it again?

[Happy Nerd] Yes. I am planning to do it again this year.

[Persephone] Definitely, but I’m taking this year off.

[Toybox] Yes, why not? I even have an idea […but…] real life is likely to keep me too busy this year. On the other hand, this is also what I thought last year!

Writing with a pen

Both Happy Nerd and Toybox wrote about their experiences in more detail here and here. And the Post also conducted interviews with 2009’s WriMos.

Whetted your appetite? Check out our dedicated NaNoWriMo space on h2g2, sign up to NaNoWriMo itself and don’t forget to drop by the h2g2 Researchers Lounge in Na NoWriMo itself and say 'Hi' and 'Shouldn't you be writing?'.

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