NaNoWriMo: more than just a fun collection of seemingly random words that easily roll off the tongue; the strange-sounding term actually refers to National Novel Writing Month, which starts bright and early every year on Nov. 1.
Novels are no easy task. The minimum word requirement for one falls around 50,000. That’s significantly longer than your average 2,500-word essay (10 pages), which as any college student can tell you, is no walk-in-the-park to begin with! In other words, a novel is not something you can crank out in one night–though if you can, you have a truly glorious future lying in store. Because the word count is so high, the decision to write a novel is not one to take lightly. Signing on for such an enterprise requires an understanding of the hours and hours of time that will have to go into the work. This is hard enough at any point in life, but during NaNoWriMo, the stakes are higher: Writers are given only one month to write the entirety of their 50,000-word novels.
With a history expanding all the way back to 1999, the nonprofit NaNoWriMo’s continued existence suggests the world seems to have quite a few seriously dedicated writers. Some will officially register with the NaNoWriMo website; others do the work on their own.
One of which is U grad Ryan Carty, who has taken part in NaNoWriMo for the past three years.
“I’ve been writing, like most people who write, for a very long time. I’d been really unable to focus long enough to do a longer piece, to finish a novel. So [NaNoWriMo] gave me kind of the motivation to sit down every day,” Carty said, adding that it gave him “an attainable goal to look forward to.”
NaNoWriMo, as you might expect, comes with its highs and its lows. In many ways, having a daily word count was great. “I really like…this idea of having that attainable goal,” Carty emphasized. “I knew I wasn’t going to finish the books with the exception of the third one,” he said but explained that the process of watching the book unfold was itself motivating.
At the same time, though, “When you’re struggling, when you’re having a bad day, every word that you put on the page looks like garbage,” Carty said, meaning that some days watching that book unfold is less motivating than it is on others.
Carty had a few tips for anyone interested in engaging in NaNoWriMo, or in writing long-form works generally: “You have to tell yourself I’m going to just write and worry about this stuff later.” This stays true throughout the day and into the evening hours. “No matter what your night-time brain tells you, it’s wrong,” he said. Leave your story be.
As far as who you should write for, Carty said it’s important not to get worried about readers. “Unless you’re already an established writer, don’t write for readers–because you don’t have any. Write for yourself at this point.”
The most important thing of all? “Keep at it,” he said, adding that you won’t want to some days, and that’s OK; the goal is not to have a perfect manuscript. Additionally, “The more words that are on the page, the more confidence you’ll get.”