Last year I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the very first time. It may sound like a chemical name for chicken salt but really it's just a short way of saying National Novel Writing Month. In a long, round about way…
The goal of NaNo is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. While 1,667 words a day might not seem that much, it really is a challenge. Of the quarter million people across the globe who will participate this year, only about 15% will succeed in completing their 50,000 words. Last year I only managed 20,000 words.
From its humble beginnings fifteen years ago with just over twenty people attempting to pen their novels, NaNowriMo has since broadened to include scriptwriters and young writers, who can set their own word challenge based on how old they are.
So, how does it work?
First you need to sign up to the NaNo site. You need to be writing a work of fiction. And you have to start from scratch. Sure, you can spend the rest of October writing a detailed plan, but no words you write before November 1st can count towards your total. It's an honesty system, and if it didn't work, then there wouldn't be such a small 'win' rate.
Then on November 1st, start writing. Then write some more. Then write some more. The goal is quantity, not quality. Don't waste time editing: if you can't think of the perfect word, leave a xxx and move on. You can edit it later, perhaps in January when your hands recover.
If you run out of ideas or need some help there are plenty of forums and sites that cover everything from naming your characters to an 'adoption shop' where you can pick up abandoned plots and characters.
Every day or week you upload your work to the official site for word tallying, which is then displayed on your writer page as an incentive (or threat) to keep going. If you manage to complete your 50,000 words by the end of the month, you are declared a winner: you get a really cool web badge, a certificate, and your name on the Winner's Page for posterity.
There is no 'prize', and no money, just the sweet sweet knowledge that you bashed out the equivalent of half a PhD dissertation in a single month.