This November, PWN is joining in on the NaNoWriMo fun of writing 50,000 words in a month. To take this challenge to the next level, we have created a CONTEST pitting our TEEN writers against our ADULT writers to see who can write the most words.
We chatted with former teen intern Vivian Parkin DeRosa and WI member Jennifer Marra about their experiences with NaNoWriMo to see just how hard (but also rewarding!) it actually is.
PWN: Why should we participate in NaNoWriMo?
VIVIAN: November is the month I write alone. At any other time of the year, imposter syndrome and despair sit next to me when I type away. There’s no time for that in NaNoWrimo. There’s no time to worry if that paragraph’s too on-the-nose, or if this character is sympathetic enough. You just have to write. I’ve written both of my books’ first drafts during this month. I don’t know any other way to draft a large fiction project, maybe because I’m from the binge-watching generation. A big project seems more manageable if I can binge-write it in a month. (And then spend two years editing. That’s the part they don’t advertise on the website.) NaNoWriMo is also an easy way to make writing my first priority. When friends call to make plans or other obligations arise, I can say, “Oh, I’m doing NaNoWriMo.” So often, writing is not seen as real work. NaNoWriMo gives the same validation to writers that marathons do for runners.
JENNIFER: It’s fun. And satisfying. And will certainly get you out of a writing rut if that currently plagues you. Not that it isn’t hard. Very hard in fact to write that many words each day, every day. But it pays off. There’s a great sense of satisfaction as you see your word count grow and see your finished product. And even if that finished product never sees the light of day, you’ve learned a great deal in the process. About yourself and how you do with deadlines and about your writing style. It’s also a good opportunity to try something new. Maybe write a memoir for your family? Write a murder mystery to see if you can plan and plot and drop clues like your favorite authors?
PWN: What projects have come out of the experience for you?
VIVIAN: I’ve completed two traditional NaNoWrimo projects—50,000 word drafts—but I’ve also adapted the challenge to work for my different goals. Last year, I committed to spending an hour every day editing my book. Even if your goal isn’t to write 50,000 words, the community can be super supportive and helpful. I always do more work when there are people holding me accountable.
JENNIFER: I am in the process of re-writing a book from my NaNoWriMo slush pile. I was pleasantly surprised as I dusted if off. It’s a murder mystery that has interesting twists and turns. I’ve described the plot to two agents who thought it was worth finishing up. Sure, it’s got some mistakes in the storyline and some sloppy character development, but it’s a starting point.
PWN: What advice would you give to new NaNoWriMo participants?
VIVIAN: 1. Tell your friends and family that you’re participating. That way, they’ll understand that you’re extra busy, and if you’re anything like me, you’re more likely to accomplish a goal if other people know about it. When it’s all over in December, make them some cookies—they’ve put up with you for a month.
2. Make the time. Hours of free writing time will not simply appear because it’s November. It’s up to you to make writing a priority this month. Say no to some plans. Work on your next chapter instead of watching the Great British Baking Show. Delete Instagram.
3. Not every word has to be good. In fact, most of them don’t have to be. Of my two 50,000 word drafts, I’ve kept very little of the actual writing. I have never written a good draft in NaNoWriMo. But without NaNoWriMo, I would never have written a draft at all. During November, just keep writing. Figure out your plot and your characters. Worry about the mechanics in December.
JENNIFER: Commit and do! It’s one month of lots of writing, but it’s only a month. If you feel like quitting during the journey, persevere. Keep at it. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you end up with. But what if you’re worried your writing won’t be good if you’re focused on quantity and not quality? There’s really no writing that’s ‘wasted.’ It’s good to practice getting thoughts from your brain to the page.