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Copyright Oggbashan May 2007
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
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Anyone can "win" NaNoWriMo -- The National Novel Writing Month -where aspiring writers try to complete 50,000 words in a month.
All a prospective author has to do is submit 50,000 words to NaNoWriMo's checking software. There is no way to tell if those words were written by the author, were written in the month, or were just copied and pasted from elsewhere.
The only person who knows whether the author actually succeeded at the task of writing 50,000 words is the author. If the author cheated, they have cheated themselves.
So why do it? Why try to complete the NaNoWriMo task? Why drive yourself to a daily chore of writing one thousand six hundred and sixty seven words a day?
The only reason to contend for a winner's certificate from NaNoWriMo is to convince oneself that you can write consistently come rain or shine, inspiration or lack of inspiration and anything that family and friends can throw at you. It proves that you have a professional approach to your writing. If you want to succeed as a writer, the NaNoWriMo trial is a simple test of self-discipline.
HELP IS THERE
There are helpful techniques for completing the NaNoWriMo challenge. Their website has many hints from successful contestants. Support from family, friends and writing colleagues will aid your task. The Literotica Author's Hangout usually has a support thread started before NaNoWriMo to encourage authors to enter, and to cheer on those who start writing.
The simplest aid is a word count, provided by NaNoWriMo. If you are writing a minimum of 1,667 words each day you are on target and will succeed IF nothing happens. If the In-laws descend for a weekend, or the cat gets sick, or any of the minor disasters that are part of daily living occur -- you will miss a day, and retrieving that missing 1,667 will be difficult. It is better to set a higher daily target, say 2,000 words a day. If you miss a day, the multiple of the extra 333 words will help get you back on course.
WHAT TO WRITE?
Despite the title of the contest, 50,000 words aren't the length of a novel. Writing 50,000 words in a month only proves that you can write 50,000 words in a month. It doesn't prove that you can write a novel. It proves that you have the application to write consistently. A novel might take you six months at the NaNoWriMo rate of 50,000 words a month and then there is the editing...
You could outline a novel in 50,000 words, producing a synopsis and several chapters. That might be enough to submit to an agent or publisher as a proposal, once you have tidied it up. So you could start on the way to becoming a published author through NaNoWriMo.
You could write down all those plot ideas that have been buzzing around in your head for months, including some scraps of each story. Beware that you don't run out of inspiration in the second week when NaNoWriMo fatigue sets in.
You could just write stream-of-consciousness ideas to be reviewed after NaNoWriMo. One year's NaNoWriMo could provide material for the stories you are going to write in the next year.
You could write a detailed diary, with flashbacks, that practices your descriptive skills. Who did you meet today? How did you interact with them? Can you describe them and what their personality is like? Could they be the villain or hero of your next story?
Whatever you intend to write during NaNoWriMo it will be easier if you have made a plan.
The first part of the plan needs to cover how you will find the time and place to write, what of your normal activities have to be stopped or postponed to provide that time, what the impact of your writing time will be on others, and whether you have their support.
The second part should cover what you intend to write. NaNoWriMo will be easier if you have too many ideas. There is nothing to say that you have to stop writing at the end of 50,000 words, or at the end of the month. You can successfully complete NaNoWriMo and keep writing. If you have too few ideas, or the story you had planned grinds to a halt, keep writing. NaNoWriMo doesn't require a complete story or completed plan. You could submit 30 short stories, one for each day, and still win. You could have written the first five chapters of the Great Novel. As long as those chapters come to 50,000 words, you will have succeeded at NaNoWriMo.
I hope that you are encouraged to attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge. If nothing else, it will prove to you that you can write to a targeted output. If you use NaNoWriMo to develop yourself as a writer then you will have succeeded twice. The certificate is nice but the real winning is the increased confidence in yourself as a writer.
PS. This How-To is about 850 words long. I wrote it in about an hour. Another hour at that rate and I would be on target to complete a NaNoWriMo.