November has finally arrived, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a time for aspiring writers to challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in just 30 days. As someone who participated last year, I think everyone who has an inclination towards writing, and who has the time, should give it a try. And just hear me out before you groan about exams and papers and all the work you’re “going to do” in that time.
The challenge isn’t impossible; staying on track with a daily word count of about 1,667 words is fairly doable, especially if you already have a story idea going into it. Much like the daily homework assigned in our classes, it’s only when you miss a day of work that you’re fucked. And also like that daily homework, the quality is guaranteed to plummet as time goes on. Your first draft, written hurriedly between shots of espresso and doing actual homework while your self-esteem is crushed by the growing realization that you have no talent, will be the worst piece of shit you ever write. But luckily, that’s not the point. The point is getting down 50,000 words. So much like that time you hooked up with your ex, it’s all about how long it is, and then you can deal with the regret over how bad it was later.
But seriously, it’s a great excuse to actually write that novel you’ve totally been meaning to write one day. Every YouTube vlogger is writing the “thrilling” stories of their lives, so surely you can pump something better out than that. And if you conquer the challenge, you do get more than bragging rights: CreateSpace will send you two free physical copies of the book you wrote so you can stack that piece of crap next to George R.R. Martin and feel good about yourself. Some very successful novels actually began with the chaos of NaNoWriMo, such as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. If having your book published and adapted into a film where Robert Pattinson plays your protagonist isn’t your idea of wild success, then I can’t imagine what is.
If you do decide to attempt the challenge, know that it is a challenge. It’s not impossible, but it won’t be easy. You’ll develop carpal tunnel syndrome in the first week. You’re not going to know what to write after the first 5,000 or so words. You might at one point end up literally typing as you sleep in your seat (some real weird stuff comes out of that). The names of your characters will spontaneously change as you completely forget who they even are. You’ll be drinking coffee at midnight and hate yourself for it. And you’ll gain an intimate knowledge of just how big the number 50,000 is. So really, it’s like the free-range essay from hell.
If a solo journey to 50,000 words feels a little too daunting for your meek self, you can cheat a little. Try 25,000 instead. Partner up with someone else and split the work between the two of you. Or get your dad to write about his day at work randomly in the middle of your story to get the word count up. Whatever it takes to win that sweet, literary glory and a false sense of superiority. That’s all a writer can really ask for anyway.