By June Thomas
There’s one week left in November, which means that a few hardy souls have seven more days to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge—that is, to compose at least 50,000 words of a new work of fiction over the course of one calendar month.
If you’ve never attempted NaNoWriMo, it probably sounds like a thoroughly pointless project. Who could possibly produce a worthwhile piece of writing in such a short time? Well, as Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, advises in his book No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel, “There is no pressure on you to write a brilliant first draft. Because no one ever writes a brilliant first draft.”
The tight, non-negotiable deadline and the challenging minimum word count are the secrets of NaNoWriMo’s genius, because they focus the mind remarkably well. I speak as a successful NaNoWriMoer (I did it in August rather than November; the television is way too good at this time of year), despite having previously written nary a word of fiction since high school. The shaggy-dog tale that I ended up with is weird and perverse, but the writing experience was astonishingly fun. I consider it one of my greatest achievements, despite the intense strangeness of the finished product.
If you’re deep in the throes of NaNoWriMo, however, fun may be the last thing you’re experiencing. You may even be struggling with NaNoWriMo block. If so, allow me to offer a few words of advice.