Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

Why NaNo?

By Rachel Kaufman
©2004, Rachel Kaufman

Why should you join NaNoWriMo? Because if you want to write and be published, it makes you do what you should be doing every day. Assume nine months to a year for a typical author to write a book, and assume three months for editing and revising before sending the manuscript to a publisher. Assume that a typical book is 90-120k words.

That means in somewhere between half and three-quarters of a year, or approximately 180 to 270 days, you will write well over a hundred thousand words. This means four hundred and forty-four (strange how the math works out, isn't it?) words a day.

To 'win' Nanowrimo (that is, to write 50,000 words in 30 days), your daily quota will be about quadruple that number, or 1,667 words per day. That's a lot more writing than 444 words a day, but most writers say that getting past the initial hump of the first one to two hundred words is the hardest. Once you're solidly into your writing time, you could write four hundred words, a thousand words, or four thousand words with less effort than the first few hundred took.

But it won't happen if you don't get those first few hundred words on the page.

NaNo gives you an excuse and a motivation to just write. Even if you've never written a word of fiction in your life, even if you have no inclination to ever publish a novel, NaNo is still a fantastic mental exercise -- and maybe you'll decide, now that you've tried it, that you really do like writing.

Still, most people need more motivation. What would possess someone to write over 1,500 words a day? Maybe it's knowing that over 30,000—that's thirty thousand -- people will be sitting down at their computers this November to do the exact same thing, agonizing over every word, trying to glue stories together with sheer force of will.

Knowing that other people are suffering through this because they're just as crazy as you are gives you the motivation to continue.

The NaNo FAQ says "Make no mistake" this November: "you will be writing a lot of crap." For some, this is a therapeutic process. "If I write a crappy novel now, I can get all the awful stuff out of the way and my next book will be much better." For others, it's a way to escape the dreaded inner editor for a month. "Who cares if it's crap? I don't have time to fix it now -- that comes in December!" they say. And it's true: writing badly does have its own sort of charm.

But you don't have to write crap, either. Four pages of writing a day is a doable goal for most people. Just because something is written quickly, and because it might have some spelling or grammar errors, doesn't make it crap. In fact, the faster you write, the more you push your brain to come up with words, the more likely it is that your subconscious will pull your plot together and make your characters seem more real.

Everyone's heard the anecdotes by famous authors who happily say things like "This chapter almost wrote itself," and "I didn't want my character to do that, but he did anyway."

Only during last year's NaNo did I have that feeling of euphoria. I started off writing faster than my brain could keep up; I ended with my brain racing miles ahead. I had fixed plot holes that I hadn't even seen before I started NaNo; I had fleshed out characters who I knew were flat but couldn't figure out how to fix, and all while I was churning out over 1,500 words per day.

And "winning," right before midnight on November 30, was the greatest feeling in the world. Reaching 50,000, a task which initially seemed impossible, had all the mystery and secrecy sucked out of it. I wasn't initiated into a secret circle of writers who all tortured themselves in November for the sake of wordcount, but my eyes were opened. I wasn't elevated to a high pedestal; instead, NaNo brought the mysteries of writing down to an earthly level. What is the difference between a writer and a "regular person," anyway?

Just this: A writer writes.