Yes, I know, it’s still September. But NaNoWriMo isn’t something I ever really stop doing at this point, so prepping this early isn’t as strange as it may seem.
For anyone new to the blog, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an amazing challenge where you try to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the 30 days of November. That’s 1,667 words per day. It’s a rewarding creative challenge all by itself, but what I’ve really come to love over the years is the community that has grown up around the challenge.
This November will be my tenth participating in this crazy challenge, as well as my sixth year serving as a Municipal Liaison (ML). That’s the fancy title NaNoWriMo gives its volunteers who coordinate activities in their local area. I’m part of a team of MLs, which is good because our area is full of participants and we have a lot going on every November. The year we actually kept track, we saw about 100 unique individuals over the course of the month, over half of whom came to our Kickoff Party. We have write-ins every day of the month of November (yes that includes Thanksgiving). We also do this crazy thing called Day of Writing Everywhere (DoWE) that involves at least six locations and writing from eight in the morning until midnight. It’s epic and fun and ridiculous and I’m always completely exhausted by the end of it, but also write a ton of words and really enjoy myself the entire day.
The community around NaNoWriMo is the reason I had the nerve to self-publish and they’re a big part of the reason why I still work on my projects and try to finish the next book in the series. I’ve seen how successful people can be and I’ve seen how dedicated they are, and it makes me want to do more and work harder. I’ve also met some of the best beta readers I’ve ever had through NaNo. Book one benefited a lot from a beta reader who was willing to be harsh when I needed it. (Thank you Keag!) Book two would have looked nothing like itself if it weren’t for a similarly brutally honest beta reader that I never would have met without NaNo. (P.K. is amazing, and I’m trying to learn from her feedback so she doesn’t have to rip to shreds the next book too.)
Most years, I’m struggling to settle on an idea by Halloween and I end up flying by the seat of my pants the whole month. This year, I want to try to do a little prep and planning. I’m not usually much of a planner, but I think that leads to a lot of revision work that I wouldn’t have to do if I had a clearer idea what the book was going to be. So this year, I’m going to follow along during out prep workshops about idea generation, plot, and character, and try to have at least a rough roadmap for the book. We’ll see if it works.
Many of the folks in my region have been working on their outlines for weeks or even months. A few are working on multiple outlines, and they’ll see which one sticks enough to become their NaNo project. I have aspirations in this direction now, even though I’m a little notorious for being the person with no idea until the end of October. That kind of change wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Speaking of change, there’s a lot of it in the NaNoWriMo world this year. They’ve rolled out a brand new website this year. It comes with even cooler word count graphs and tracking, additional customization of my profile page, a chat box on the regional page, and of course brand new forums. The forums are built on Discourse, which I’m already a bit in love with. There are growing pains, as there always are, especially with the amount of traffic the site is already getting in September, but I have faith that the staff at NaNoWriMo HQ will pull through, get the last of the bugs worked out, and give us an amazing experience this year even if some of the cooler new features haven’t arrived yet.
One of the changes I’m most excited about is that the forum won’t be reset every year. So we’ll have history. We’ll be able to share what we did last year without having to save it down or mark it special. There’s just so much that’s going to be amazing about the new forums and the tool MLs and moderators have to keep it moving and chatty for a long time.
The site change I’m most excited about is the events. They’re still working on them (like giving us edit and delete access) but if you’re careful and get it right the first time, it’s pretty awesome. There’s a map so folks can easily see where the location is. There’s a list of all the events (even if it’s not in a good default sort order yet) and there’s eventually going to be an overall map that shows where all the events are. Plus, there’s a way for WriMos (participants) to post an event and for an ML to endorse it, which is pretty cool.
Overall, I’m really excited about my tenth year. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Even if there are still site bugs or issues or a feature I really wanted hasn’t rolled out yet. It’s the people that I love the most, and those will be there if nothing else.
If you’ve never tried NaNoWriMo before, I encourage you to give it a try this year. You don’t even have to be that focused on winning. It’s really more about finding space for creativity in your life and developing a daily writing habit that it is about actually winning the challenge.
Happy writing all!