Writing a first draft of a novel is like the beginning of a romantic relationship: Everything is exciting, new, and there is a lot to explore.
Your heart beats fast; you are in love with your characters and the world you creating.
Every fiction author knows that feeling.
Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, refers to it as being in ‘the zone’. He founded the National Novel Writing Month in 1999 because he loves books and always wanted to write a novel. He started it in the office where he was working, with 21 of his co-workers.
Since then, NaNoWriMo happens every year in November and has grown into a huge organization, with 310,095 participants last year alone.
Once you have signed in for NaNoWriMo via their website, you are committed to writing a novel in one month. According to Baty´s book, No Plot? No Problem!, NaNoWriMo’s only rule is that the writer must start a novel from scratch on day one. One can plan the plot before and do some research, but the actual writing must start November 1.
The goal is to write 1667 words a day, which, by the end of NaNoWriMo, will give you a first draft with 50,000 words, which is the length of novels like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or Generation X by Douglas Coupland.
In his book, Baty refers to the importance of a deadline when it comes to novel writing.
“The bigger the artistic project, the more it needs a deadline,” he writes. “Nowhere is this more true than in novel writing, when even people who know what they are doing have problems getting things finished.”
Baty gives a lot of writing tools to first-time novelists. His book guides the aspiring author through the writing month as he covers everything from time management, to the best place to write, to what food to eat — even how to find a plot.
“A novel rough draft is like bread dough; you need to beat the crap out of it to make it rise,” Baty writes.
But a deadline can be stressful as well, and they put the writer under great pressure.
So why are some people doing it to themselves?
Opal Mariel, a Yukon NaNoWriMo participant, says, “It is great fun. And the online forums and pep talks are providing guidance and the occasional kick in the butt.”
Motivation is also found on the NaNoWriMo website, where one can find fellow participants in Canada. The Yukon is not listed on the website; we are found under Canada — Elsewhere, where a few Northerners are writing.
Over 250 NaNoWriMo authors have published novels since Baty came up with the idea. They include Sara Gruen´s Water for Elephants, and Erin Morgenstern`s The Night Circus.
After you have finished the NaNoWriMo, you are listed on the website as a winner. It is a good feeling to have accomplished a first draft, but the great thing about NaNoWriMo and Baty’s book is that one can use the tools he offers in any month to reach the goal to write a first draft.