Here’s one I’ve told many times before.
It probably gets old, but it’s always a first-time story for somebody. I’ve been writing for years, no, nothing published. For a long time, I didn’t even have anything FINISHED, at least nothing of any substantial length. I had one science fiction story I kept rewriting on paper, but don’t think I ever got around to typing it up.
There was another, fantasy, that followed a similar path. The difference was I did eventually type a lot of it, even if it was mostly plan/overview, and not really written as such. That totalled about 12,000 words. The short outline came to over 4000 words. The timeline for writing that, somewhere between 2-3 years.
When I first learned about National Novel Writing Month, I thought “There’s something that’s not possible…” but was still interested. Then promptly forgot about it (must’ve been 2008). Remembered after that November, and then again in June. That time I signed up an account, with the hope I’d remember for 2009. I did. I wrote. I bashed out 53,000 words. Had some people that read it, and while it may not have been good enough for myself to consider publishable, reception was great. The best bit is I had something I’d done from start to finish, an actual complete first draft. Not every year has been a success in terms of word count, but each has always provided something of merit – the time is never wasted.
The goal for NaNoWriMo is a few words shy of the number I had for my first, though 50,000 words is still a sizeable chunk of run-on sentences and plot-holes. The daily target is 1667 words per day, for the entire month of November. Some people do set themselves a higher goal, but the sanest approaches to NaNoWriMo are more concerned with forming a consistent writing habit, rather than trying to push all the words out in a single day. Yes, there are people that do that. There’s people that plan out their novel with every detail imaginable, and others still that dive in without any preconceived ideas – and a complete spectrum between these two approaches.
The worthiness of what gets written is sometimes questioned, but there are benefits even beyond having a draft written. One of the best things that doing it has taught me, is that I don’t need every line to be perfect before I go on. I still hold onto a degree of that, and always want the lines I write to be something I can work with, not just filler that I’ll throw out come December. It’s also pushed back on my need for a ridiculously detailed plan. I still love the planning process, but I’m more open with letting a story take paths I hadn’t anticipated.
If you’re the type of person that considers yourself an aspiring writer, I wholeheartedly recommend taking part in NaNoWriMo. Anyone can do it. Neither aptitude nor imagination are barriers to writing a novel, and even the time-pressed might be surprised what they can produce. There is a lot of stuff on planning here, lots of great content on the NaNoWriMo site, and well, a whole internet of people giving advice (and yeah, a few selling it)
Currently I’m in that stage where I’ve written a detailed-enough plan for me to proceed, and keenly awaiting November 1st. I’m probably putting more pressure on myself with this particular story than I should be, but really excited to start writing anyway.
The other bits that are worth mentioning are:
a) if you do start, you may loathe what you’ve written over the first day or so. It’s normal. You may feel like this a lot of the time, or none of the time. You’re unlikely to love your writing all of the time, but it’s no indication of whether or not you should be a writer. I’ve hated my writing a lot, until I was able to put time between the writing and the reading.
b) you don’t need a special writing course to take part in NaNoWriMo. It may be beneficial afterwards, and obviously not for everyone, but most of the rules of writing are to be ignored during NaNoWriMo, so that you can just get the words out, and later, have a raw nugget ready to be refined into a readable second draft.
c) it’s easier than it looks. You just keep writing.