If you aren't a writer, then you might not know that November is "National Novel Writing Month." What does this mean?
It means that thousands of new writers around the world pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. They pledge with an organization called NaNoWriMo which offers support and guidance to writers who want to tackle the ultimate challenge. Here is how they describe their raison d'être:
"Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."
According to the organization, over 250,000 writers participated in the event last November, pledging to write a novel between November 1 and November 30. But only 15% of them actually did it.
In November of 2009, I joined them (thank you, Elizabeth!). It was how I wrote the first draft of The Orphan's Daughter. Three years on, many drafts later, many critiques later, many classes later, much networking later... The Orphan's Daughter has been requested by editors from Penguin, Hachette and HarperCollins, by literary agents from New York to L.A., and is just waiting for its lucky roll of the dice. Any. Day. Now. My point is: you can do it. You can. But there's a secret to making it to the goal, to any goal, that involves writing.
In order to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, you have to write about 1,600 words per day. Most days, you will have very little to say. On the other days, you will have nothing.
So where are the 1,600 words going to come from? What's the secret to success? Are you ready?
Here it is: Sit down.
That's all, it really is. One day I sat down and all I could type was "Mary had a little lamb..." over and over. Then there was some "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog..." I really and truly had nothing to say. But after twenty lines of nursery rhymes, I started to type a few sentences that had to do with my story. Then a few more. Then the fingers knew what they were supposed to do. Type. On the days I started with nursery rhymes, I ended up having an even higher word count than other days (and that's minus the rhymes, which didn't count toward my goal).
I once took a screenwriting class, and one of the students asked the screenwriter: "How do you make time to write?" His answer was very basic, but I think it's the most important answer, the most profound on this perennial question, I've ever heard: It's a question of respecting myself. That's how.
So, writer, just sit down. Respect yourself. Sit down for 1,600 words and you will be in the minority that actually finishes that novel. There is a professional writer in you. There is. Just like there is in me. Here is a list of WriMo's who've been published, including Water For Elephant's Sara Gruen!
Need a little more motivation? Here is one of my more popular posts on sticking to your guns: The Professional.
Are you writing for NaNoWriMo? What are you writing about? I really want to know!