Today is the day.
Every year, writers from around the world commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. That averages out to approximately 1,667 words a day. Every single day. For a whole month. The goal is a “novel”. The NaNoWriMo website states “We define a novel as ‘a lengthy work of fiction.’ Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.”
NaNoWriMo doesn’t police you though. You “win” by committing to yourself, by committing to the process of writing. They aren’t reading your words, deciding if it’s “novel-y” enough. Everyone can win.
Last year’s NaNoWriMo was really hard for me. I finished, but it was a push. I felt lost and not ready for the story I was working on. I succeeded in the 50,000 words, but much of it was backstory and world-building. This year, I’m looking at NaNo as a practice and an opportunity to show what raw writing looks like. Good, bad, and ugly.
Earlier this year, my small online book club read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In his introduction, written in 1900, he talks of lore, legend, and fairy tale. He believes that the tales of Grimm and Andersen used “horrible and blood-curdling incidents… to point a fearsome moral to each tale.” He stated that because the education of 1900 included morality, he “seek[s] only entertainment… and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.” He concluded that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz “aspires to be a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartache and nightmares are left out.”
This was my first time reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and was I struck by his sentiment of a book without nightmares. And then I started reading. This book is full of nightmares! A yellow wild cat decapitated to save the life of a mouse. Political manipulation. The subjects sprinkled through the pages are often dark and frightening.
We discussed this in our book club, the horrors woven through the book. What was life like in 1900 when these chapters were childhood enjoyment? What if it could be darker, scarier? What if Stephen King and L. Frank Baum collaborated? What would that story look like?
That is my goal for NaNoWriMo this year. To take L. Frank Baum’s masterpiece and make it scarier, darker. I have no idea where this is going to go. I have nothing planned. My outline is a classic book of the public domain, one that is familiar to the world. Writing is about playing and seeing where a story may lead you. I want to see what happens when I dive into the world of Oz and let it direct me.
I want to invite you to join me. As I finish each chapter, I will post the raw writing here. It won’t be pretty. I won’t be spending time editing my grammar. There will be holes in the plot. I will introduce things in chapter one and totally forget to take it anywhere later on. I have no idea if I can even write horror. Mostly, it will be a tribute to a famous work of art, a bit of fan fiction, and a writing challenge for me.
What does it mean to “win” NaNoWriMo?
Everyone has the opportunity to win.
First, you get badges on the site as you upload your ongoing word count. Last year, my first year officially trying NaNo, I didn’t realize there were badges; and smaller goals to keep you focused. There was a first-day badge, for just showing up. I didn’t show up until about day three and I missed it. While it’s a digital badge, there is a certain excitement in trying to get them all. There are badges for updating your progress, updating a certain number of days in a row, and a badge for your first 1,667 words. A total of 16 badges in all, with the final badge awarded for your 50,000 words.
Along with a beautiful feeling of accomplishment, NaNo is sponsored by some amazing writing groups and programs. You have access to discounted tools just by participating. You receive a certificate of completion. There are also some winner bonus offers if you complete your 50,000 words.
More importantly, NaNo provides you with a community, There are online forums, and live meet-ups in different regions, or you can connect with a buddy to help keep your focus. I am thankful to have a couple of NaNo buddies to check in with. Last year, I absolutely would not have finished without my friend Bridgette. Her dedication inspired my dedication and kept me moving.
Ultimately for me, NaNo is about developing the habits of a writer. That is my win.
You can sign up here. It’s not too late. There is no age limit. NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo (during the summer) are open to ages 13 and up. NaNo also offers their Young Writers Program which allows writers under the age of 18 to set their writing goals. It also offers smaller writing challenges throughout the year.
I look forward to having you join me on this journey. Let me know if you’re writing this year in the comments and anything you want to share about your experience with NaNo.
Let’s get writing!