Last week we talked a little about what National Novel Writing Month is. If you missed it, you can find Part 1 here: What’s Nanu Reemoo?
Today I want to explain the rules and why I don’t follow them.
The rules are actually pretty simple:
- Sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and declare yourself to the world.
- Write 50k words of a new work during the month of November.
- Paste the whole thing into their word count checker (feel free to scramble the words if you’re afraid someone will steal it, but honest, nobody sees it) to get verified.
- Display your winner swag with pride.
Pretty simple, yes? Except for the second rule. I have a problem with that one. “New work” is understood to mean that you start a brand new book on November 1st, and stick with it all through the month.
I can’t do this. Okay, maybe I could if I tried, but I’d rather not. This is my third year doing this, and it will be my third year starting November 1st with a significant word count on a book already in progress.
To make it fair, I do open a brand new Word document in which only November words will go. I don’t count the already existing chapters in my NaNo word count. I’m still doing 50k. I’m just not starting from scratch on page one like the majority of people.
While all my friends are running around doing prep work right now for the novel they can’t wait to begin at midnight on Halloween, I’m getting caught up on housework and blog posts while the 26k or so words I’ve already written sit tight and wait for me to get back to them.
Before I explain why I do this, I want to assure you that I am not cheating. There are others like me working on something already in progress. There are also people who write 50k worth of short stories. Some people spend the time rewriting a stinky novel that needs at least 50k worth of re-do.
The folks at the website have us covered. We’re officially called “rebels,” and it’s perfectly okay. We’ve still embraced the challenge, and we’re still doing 50k of new words during November. So, if that’s something holding you back, don’t let it. This is a challenge that can be shaped to fit your needs. It’s okay to work outside the official parameters.
The reason I do it that way is simple. I write full-length novels. The first one came in at 73k for the first draft. (It got longer in rewrites.) The second one came in around 85k. My initial goal for this one is 80k, though it’ll probably be closer to 85 or 90.
So, what good is 50k going to do me? That’s barely over halfway. The halfway mark is when it starts to get really difficult and the cheering and bullying of my fellow writers is most needed. By already having a good 30k written before it starts, I’m assured that I will get to the end by November 30th. Not just the end of NaNoWriMo — the end of the novel.
It also means that I can let the whole thing rest during the holidays before I start the editing process.
Everyone does it in a different way. My way seems to work for me, but you can do it anyway you like. When people tell me they’d like to do it, but they can’t possibly do 50k, I always tell them to make a different goal.
There’s no NaNo police. You want to do 20k in a month? Do that. You want to write 30 poems in 30 days? Do that. Whatever your goals, I say they’re valid. Go for it. Get out of your own way and join us in this adventure.
For those of you who might be convinced, come back Friday. In part 3, we’ll go over how to sign up and how to get started.
See you real soon!