Ah, fall. The time for shorter days, hot beverages, curling up on the couch with a good book, spending time with loved ones and finally writing that novel you’ve got banging around in your head.
In case you are not one of the hundreds of thousands of writers who gather digitally and in person each November for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, let me explain. From November 1 to 30, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel. That’s 1,667 words per day, but don’t let that scare you. I’ve written as many as 10,000 words in a single day, and there are people who do the whole 50,000 in a single day or weekend.
Well, that’s probably because it is. I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2007 and have only met the word count goal three times—but even the “failures” aren’t really failures. I always end the month with more written than I had at the beginning, and even if my novel fizzles out, I can use what I learned for my next draft.
Also, it’s fun.
Which is why CLP – West End is hosting a series of NaNoWriMo “Write Ins” on Saturdays from October 29 to December 3, 10 am to 12 pm. On October 29, we’ll do some hard-core planning. I’m talking colored pencils, index cards, highlighters and messy, messy pages. If you’re the type who prefers to wing it, you can work on your character concepts or setting rather than your plot, or sit in a corner and look mysterious and brooding.
Each Saturday in November (except November 12), we’ll drink too much caffeine, cheer each other on and enjoy friendly competition in word sprints, where you attempt to write as many words as possible in a set period of time. And finally, on December 3, when we’re exhausted but exhilarated, we’ll celebrate our writing successes with tasty treats and share bits from our literary masterpieces.
Even if you’re only a hobbyist, or want to write a fanfic novel for fellow diehards and don’t care about traditional publishing, check out one of these great books on getting your novel from idea to book, and consider joining us at CLP – West End on October 29!
No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty
Baty is NaNoWriMo’s founder and ultimate guru. The original No Plot? No Problem came out in 2004 when NaNo was just starting to take off. An updated version came out in 2014 (the Library has the print as well as the eBook version). This guide psyches you up for your Herculean writing effort, and it provides tips and tricks for such dangerous acts as writing at work. It takes you through the stages you’ll go through with your novel (sort of like grief), and acts as a general novel-writing cheerleader. A must-read for NaNo newbies.
Book in a Month by Victoria Schmidt
I haven’t read this personally, but it has good reviews on Goodreads. Unlike Baty’s book, this one breaks down the novel-writing process into a structured timeline with specific milestones meant to be reached on certain days. And, since you aren’t limited to November with this system, you can pick any month that works for you.
Is Life Like This? by John Dufresne
If writing 50,000 words in 30 days seems like something a crazy person would do, how about writing a novel in six months? Like Book in a Month, this title gives you a goal to work toward and milestones to hit along the way. Great for those who prefer distance running to sprints. Or for those who don’t want to cut themselves off from all social activity for thirty days.
Kicking in the Wall by Barbara Abercrombie
Abercrombie’s book gives you prompts and exercises to practice your writing craft throughout the whole year, not just during November. Or cherry-pick for ideas that speak to you and your current project. The book also includes inspirational and encouraging quotes to keep you motivated.
The Daily Writer by Fred D. White
This book is essentially a writer’s devotional. Instead of providing religious texts or messages, though, the author provides meditations meant to deepen and enrich your creative side and grow your writing practice over the course of a full year (with an extra day for leap year).
And if you just cannot wait to get your writing kick-started, check out Conversations and Connections, a one-day writing conference happening right here in Pittsburgh this Saturday, October 22. As far as writing conferences go, you get a good bang for your buck, including free book swag and one-on-one time with a real-life editor. I’m not able to go this year, but in years past I’ve picked up some tricks on balancing writing with work and life and gotten great insights on writing from some truly amazing writers (including some of my favorite local authors like Robert Yune, Sherrie Flick, Lori Jakiela, and more!)
No More Procrastination!Come Write Your Novel at CLP - West End!
Questions about the NaNoWriMo program? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 412.921.1717.
-Kelly, who is still working on her novel from last year
Kelly reads, writes and sometimes sews, always with a large mug of tea. Her job as the Clerical Specialist at CLP – West End gives her plenty of ideas for stories that find homes in obscure literary magazines.