It sounds like a dare that is too good to pass up: write 50 000 words in 30 days. This is a challenge that is taken up by several thousand people all over the world each November, in what is known as “National Novel Writing Month” or NaNoWriMo. The genre, length, and plot don’t matter. The point is just to write, or start to write, a story that is good for at least 50 000 words.
What does one get? Winners of the challenge get free online badges, as well as the chance to have free proof copies of their work courtesy of Createspace. However for many Wrimos (as some NaNoWriMo participants call themselves), the satisfaction of working on a story, of carving out time to write, and finding camaraderie among other writers are already rewarding enough. The very task of dedicating time and effort towards a creative output may seem daunting, but that is where the fun lies.
I’ve been a WriMo since 2008. My first attempt at the 50k word dash was a spectacular failure; some personal drama had me stopping at 30 000 words and left me unable to continue the story. A year later, I finished the minimum of 50 000 words, though I was only halfway through the intended plot. Last year posed some minor logistical concerns, which had me taking up the challenge to another level: I wrote the first 50 000 words of the novel—and the rest of the first draft by hand. I like to believe that the manuscript (currently under revision) is worth the late nights, writer’s cramp, random scrawling sessions, and endless brainstorming.
Even after all these years I find it difficult to put into words this drive to write and work on a story in just 30 days. For me, I think that part from having time to ‘play’ and do what I do best, NaNoWriMo allows me to organize and iron out things that would otherwise remain mere abstracts. It gives me an opportunity to work on another side of my brain, a part that is more wild, free and able to comprehend possibilities. Not that being a student is devoid of chances to use the imagination, but there is simply something more fun and liberating about penning down “alternate histories” or tales of the fantastical.
Will I join NaNoWriMo again this year? Hopefully I can, if only to keep me sane in medical school. I hope to be able to find old friends, make new ones, and strengthen ties with fellow writers in the 50k word dash. I want to be able to try new tales, spin something novel in a different genre, and simply explore bends in a road that I cannot do in real life.
To read more about NaNoWriMo, log on to http://nanowrimo.org.