November is national novel writing month — or, to abbreviate, NaNoWriMo. If you have the inspiration, the guts, or just the plain old determination to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, you can sign up for free at the NaNoWriMo website to join tens of thousands of other writers committing to that. There, you can register your novel, keep track of your word count throughout the month, and browse forums for inspiration or advice. You can also check out local meet-ups where you show up and write like crazy with other NaNoWriMo’ers.
It’s a slightly madhouse task, but that’s the point. The writing doesn’t have to be superb. Sure, there are quite a few NaNoWriMo success stories (like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants) but a rushed, ridiculous novel is totally okay too. The point is to get that word count out. To have a draft of a novel at the end of the month — instead of just a few more scratched notes, a vague idea, and regret that you didn’t write anything this month. (That’s most months for me, anyway.)
I’m most looking forward to getting in the habit of doing creative writing again. In high school, I wrote novels all the time. I also wrote screenplays and poems and weird little novellas that I actually sent to publishers to no avail. I tried to write a play after reading Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead because it was the best thing ever. I was just always, always writing something.
Then I went to college and got busy. Being a late bloomer, I had more fun in college than I did in high school, but going out more and being absorbed in so many things left little time for writing. The gap between writing projects gave my inner critic time to grow into a little monster and made writing harder than ever; it also seemed to dim my imagination.
I still work on ideas all the time. Occasionally, I’ll jot down scenes or short stories, but I haven’t finished a novel in about seven years. Now that I’m well into my 20’s, I’m ready to write something more serious and try to get published — but that’s why writing can be so scary. It’s hard not to be hard on yourself when you’re an adult writer who has yet to publish anything.
NaNoWriMo is a chance to let go of those inhibitions and just write for the sake of writing. It doesn’t have to be award-winning stuff; it can be silly, but the point is to enjoy it. Nothing is uneditable later. I know there will be days when I don’t want to write or don’t have much time to do so, but as long as I can tap out my 50,000 words before December 1 hits, I’ll be happy.