NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is all over the Internet right now. Are you doing it? The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel this month. That means 1,666 words a day if you write seven days a week. That doesn’t seem like so much for me. I can spew out words in profusion on the days that I choose to write, but seven days a week? Including Thanksgiving? No, no, no. That kind of schedule is a quick trip to burnout land for me. I purposely keep my hands off the computer keys on Sunday and sometimes another day of the week because it’s not just typing. The brain needs to recharge. It needs to go back to the warehouse for supplies. If I get an inspiration on my non-writing days, I may boot up the machine, but I’m more likely to scratch it out on a piece of paper so I’m ready to go in the morning.
For some people, NaNo works. The camaraderie and the pressure to report progress every day can really help get you writing. You can even attend “write-ins” in your community to pour out the words together. No critiques, no craft discussions, or worries about marketing, just writing. It’s all good. Just not for me. Not this year.
I have started NaNoWriMo a couple of times and pooped out because I realized the novel I had started to write wasn’t what I was supposed to be writing at that point. I already had writing projects I needed to get done, and NaNo was just a distraction. Plus I think it’s more important to write well than to write quickly. This year, I’m immersed in a nonfiction project and don’t really have a novel noodling around in my brain. I’m still trying to sell the last one I wrote. Plus it’s November. I’m as busy as a dog barking at squirrels under the woodpile.
Challenges can be good. I have gotten many poems out of Poem-a-Day challenges, and I enjoyed last year’s A to Z blog challenge. Anything that gets us over the wall between not writing and writing is good. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, go, go, go. God bless you. May your words flow easily into a great novel that we’ll all read and love. But don’t feel guilty if you’re not taking the challenge this year. Do your own thing. Make your own challenge that fits your life and your writing goals. Finish that book by Christmas. Send out a query a week, write 500 words of prose a day, or write a poem every Tuesday. Or just keep doing what you’re doing. That’s probably challenge enough.
Now let’s go write.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo again. National Novel Writing Month. You have probably heard about it. Participants strive to write 50,000 words of fiction in the month of November. They post their words online each day, and if they get to 50,000, they win the challenge.They also have the first draft of a novel. Doing the math, 50,000 words comes out to 1666 words a day if you write every day. If you write Monday through Friday like me, reserving weekends for church, family and real life, you need to produce 2,500 words a day. That’s 12 double-spaced pages. Am I insane? Can I do it? Do I want to do it?
Actually, no. Since I wrote that paragraph, I had a talk with myself and decided to switch to NaNonFiWriMo, National Nonfiction Writing Month. This challenge will allow me to concentrate on the book I’m already writing, but at a faster speed with the support of other writers doing the same thing.
Compared to NaNoWriMo and NaNonFiWriMo, the poem-a-day challenges I’ve done and the A to Z blog challenge I did earlier this year are easy. Plus Thanksgiving happens this month. Also, Christmas is coming. Cards, gifts, parties, when will I write? First thing in the morning. Then I’ll worry about the other stuff.
NaNoWriMo is the original November writing challenge, but there seems to be one for whatever genre you want to write. The possibilities include:
Poem-a-Day challenge, http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2014-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-guidelines
National Playwriting Month, NaPlWriMo, https://www.facebook.com/naplwrimo
National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, http://www.blogher.com/blogher-topics/blogging-social-media/nablopomo
National Nonfiction Writing, Month NaNonFiWriMo, http://www.writenonfictioninnovember.com
There are more. Google “November writing challenges” for a list, but these are the biggest and best.
Challenges force you to write, offer a community of other writers to share the misery, and make you accountable. You have to do the writing to be able to post your results. Two hours on Facebook or an hour playing games won’t get it done. If we could put that kind of energy and focus into our work without an official challenge, imagine what we could accomplish.
Some of my best poems were born during Poem-a-Day challenges. I have written more poems during those challenges than at any other time. Many of those poems would not have happened if I hadn’t gotten out of bed knowing that I had to write a poem, that I couldn’t just say, “I don’t feel poetic today.”
It isn’t necessary to wait for the November challenges. You can set up your own challenge at any time. If you don’t trust yourself to stick with it, enlist a friend or a group of friends to join you. Challenge each other. Tell them “I’m going to write X number of words every day” and report your word count at the end of the day. Plan a celebration for when you achieve your goals.
My students often tell me they need a class to get them writing. They say they can’t write without assignments and deadlines. Days, months and years pass, and they just don’t get around to putting words on page or screen. Many writers long for wide-open days with nothing to do but write, but when we get those days, we’re overwhelmed by all that time and wind up wasting a lot of it. Sometimes an assignment, a deadline and limited time are the best inspiration.
So I’m getting ready to write, write, write. How about you? What kind of challenge do you need to kick your writer self into high gear?
November starts this weekend, but why wait?
Go write now.
Good morning, writers. It’s almost November. That brings to mind winter weather and Thanksgiving. Time to get serious about those Christmas presents. But it’s also time to write.
NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, starts Nov. 1. For those who have been living on another planet, NaNoWriMo is an annual writing adventure that challenges folks to write a novel–or at least 50,000 words of one–in a month. That means 1,600 words a day. No one expects perfection to result, but it’s a great exercise and may just get that book you’ve been talking about well on its way to completion.
Last year I signed up and then chickened out, but I’m going for it this year. NaNoWriMo offers an online community, incentives to keep writing, and opportunities to meet with people in your area to write together.
If novels aren’t your thing, about about the Poem a Day challenge? Robert Lee Brewer, editor of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market, hosts this at his Poetic Asides blog. Every day in November, he will post a prompt which you can use or not to write a poem. You’re welcome to post your poems and read those of others doing the challenge, but it’s not required. When it’s over, you can put your poems together in a chapbook and enter a competition for the best chapbook.
In reality, every day can be a writing challenge day. But these two challenges give you a chance to join others to write together. Give it a try. I’m going to.
It’s the fifth day of the Poem-a-Day challenge. So far, I’m keeping up. My poems are not all great. I’m not sure some of them are even poems, but that’s okay. As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, you have to be willing to start with a “shitty” first draft. Let yourself write freely, worrying about making it perfect later.
I like to compare writing to creating a sculpture. First I have to shape the clay in the general outline of what I’m planning to make. Once I have that, I can add and subtract until it’s perfect, but without that original lump of clay, I’ve got nothing.
I’m finding more and more that it helps, especially with poetry, to take my notebook outside the office. There’s a theory that we write differently when we use pen and paper instead of a keyboard. It uses a different part of the brain. I think that’s true with poetry, but even if you prefer the computer, if you feel stuck or stale, try taking it somewhere different.
If the sun is shining, I may go out in the yard. If not, I can snuggle on the sofa with the dog. Or, I might get in the car and go somewhere. Some of my best writing happens sitting in the car looking out at the ocean. Starbucks, the library, or a hotel lobby also work. Once I’m in the mood, I may go back to the office, but sometimes it takes a change of scenery to get away from distractions and start my creative mind working.
How about you? What gets your pen or your fingers moving?
It’s April, National Poetry Month. That means Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer is once again hosting the Poem a Day challenge. Each day this month, he will give a prompt at his Poetic Asides site. You can use it or write something else, but the idea is to write a poem every day. Writers can share their poems with each other in the comments section or just keep them to themselves. I have tried this several times, finishing twice. Brewer also does a Poem a Day challenge in November that leads to a chapbook competition. The rest of the year, he offers prompts on Wednesdays and lots of articles about poetry. Give it a try. There’s nothing to lose and new poems to gain.
Go write something!