So this month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time. And I won!
Now, you might be wondering a couple of things: what is NaNoWriMo, and what does it mean to “win” it?
NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month,” and traditionally it is held in November. The idea is to write 50,000 words of a manuscript in 30 days. One might argue that 50,000 words is just the very barest minimum you could have for a manuscript and consider it a full novel, and in some ways one would be correct in thinking so.
There are some generally accepted word length requirements for different types of fiction forms, which can be verified in multiple places on the Internet, should you choose to do so, but for simplicity’s sake, feel free to go with these distinctions:
- microfiction: under 100 words
- flash fiction: under 1,000 words
- short story: under 7,500 words (sometimes under 10,000 words)
- novelette (which seems to pop up primarily in the various genres of speculative fiction): 7,000-17,000 words
- novella (which sometimes encompasses novelettes as well): 10,000-50,000 words
- novel: over 50,000 words
Obviously one will find some overlap here and there, but these are general guidelines.
And what does it mean to “win” the NaNoWriMo? Completing your goal!
You might be wondering how anyone can get that much writing done in 30 days, especially when we have day jobs and (in the US) the Thanksgiving holiday and other things going on in our lives. That’s a totally fair question. For me, as a full-time high school teacher who also has a family and who hosts Thanksgiving, the idea of writing 50,000 words on a single manuscript during the month of November is unrealistic at best (and insane at worst), and my thoughts on that craziness are well documented. And apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way, because NaNoWriMo also now hosts “camps” — such as the one which occurs in July every year.
Anyway, I have been working on a new novel and made it a goal for 2020 to reach 50,000 words on it, and my friend Christa encouraged me to do Camp NaNoWriMo with her this month, and we did, and I made it past 50,000 words! Yes!
Is my novel done? Hell no!
And there are a few important reasons for that:
- first, this novel is probably going to be closer to 100,000 words long when I finish the first draft;
- second, once I get to the end of the first draft, that only gives me something to then work with;
- third, the path to publication is long and sometimes winding and definitely has a lot of repeat steps on it (see also: revision and editing).
(One thing that has unfortunately given self-publishing a rancid name is the slew of first-draft NaNoWriMo projects that turn into badly written self-published ebooks on Amazon every January. Ah well. It’s a shame, too, because there are quite a lot of self-published and independent authors who are churning out excellent work, and their marketshare is tarnished by the people who don’t quite fully participate in all parts of the writing process.)
Some brilliant novels got their start as NaNoWriMo projects: one of the more famous examples is Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read that she worked on it three Novembers in a row. (Case in point of how really good literature often takes quite a long time to make really good.)
Anyway. I’m just pleased that I managed to unlock this achievement, and I’m going to keep working on the new novel in addition to my other projects. (More on those later.) I’ve created a new goal for this manuscript for August and will keep doing so each month until this manuscript is done.
Have you done any version of the NaNoWriMo? Drop a note in the comments here about your experience!
So, cheers to you. Stay safe by staying home when you can, wearing a mask when you can’t, washing your hands frequently, and paying attention to science over nonsense and legitimate doctors over politicians. All the best.
Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will!