I’ve mentioned NaNoWriMo a few times before in these podcasts and it stands for National Novel Writing Month where the idea is that you write a minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days. It may sound impossible but at just under 1,700 words a day it’s certainly doable… and I’ve done it twice.
It’s now in its 12th year (2010) and was an idea spawned by a San Fransisco writing group with 21 people taking part in July 1999. It changed to November the following year (they say to “take advantage of the miserable weather) and went global pretty quickly now attracting over 100,000 writers with an average of 15-20% of people ‘winning’ which means writing over the 50,000 words. In 2008 I scraped in with 53,000 words but in 2009 I wrote a chick lit which I found easier and had more characters and a more extensive plot so managed a whopping 117,540 words (although NaNoWriMo’s widgets – their word counting machine – worked it out to be 100 or so words more) so it’s possible if you have a strong enough idea – one with ‘legs’. The NaNoWriMo website says “Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”
All you do is create a profile (a free account) on their website which includes your geographical area, and then update your profile with your progress. They also run the Young Writers Program I mentioned a minute again (the website is http://ywp.nanowrimo.org), aimed at up to 17 year olds, which has a wonderful ‘Dare Machine’ on it – the dare on the home page when I looked was ‘We dare you to start a chapter with the words: “It didn’t hurt that much”. There’s also NaNoEdMo which, although not by the same organisation, is based on a similar idea but a month (March yearly) of editing which gives you three clear months to let your novel sit in a drawer while you get on with something else so that it feels fresh when you return to it and therefore, hopefully, easier to spot mistakes or areas that need work.
When you’ve written your first draft, left it to stew, edited, re-edit and edit some more, you need to make sure that it fits the format that an agent, editor or publisher will accept. The more professional a manuscript (and cover letter/synopsis) is, the more seriously it will be taken and, hopefully, reach further up the slush pile tree.