A few days ago, on the recommendation of my daughter, and with the encouragement of people who had already done so, I did something I never thought I would do; something exciting, exhilarating, incredibly frightening. I signed up for NaNoWriMo.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National November Writing Month, a writing challenge that began in 1999 with just 21 participants in the San Francisco Bay area, and proved to be so popular that it grew into an annual event until 2016 saw 384,126 participants world-wide.
The rules are simple. Write a 50,000 word novel (or the first 50,000 words of a longer novel) during the month of November. This works out at 1,667 words per day. Writing begins at 12:00 am on November 1 and ends at 11:59:59 pm on November 30. It’s ok to plan or make notes before this, but no material written before November 1 can be included in the novel.
And, no, writing the same word 50,000 times doesn’t count.
This is what I have signed myself up for. This is what has my heart racing, my legs weak and my stomach performing acrobatics. My initial reaction upon signing up was, what the hell was I thinking? I’ve only ever written poetry and flash fiction before now. How can I possibly write a novel in one month? I’m going to fail for sure! I’m going to fall flat on my face and prove beyond a doubt that I was never meant to be a writer.
Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a published author. I never pursued this, though, because I am not a confident person. My father spent many of my early years putting me down and actively discouraging me from spending time on the things I enjoyed, because he believed the arts were a waste of time and only maths, engineering and technology counted towards success.
Rather than causing me to rebel, as many people would, Dad’s behaviour caused me to withdraw into a shell. A shell with extremely low self-esteem and zero confidence in my ability to fulfil my dreams.
Thankfully, I know this about myself, so after descending into a full-blown panic attack (and November hasn’t even started yet), I was able to calm down, realise I was blowing my fears of failure well out of proportion, and begin enjoying the process of researching life in the time my novel will be set. After all, so what if I do fail? It isn’t as though I have any money riding on this. My landlord won’t throw me out on the street if I’m 10,000 words short of my target.
If I only make it to 20,000 words, my family will still love me, my belly will still be full and my shirt will still be on my back. Only now, I will have enjoyed a fun and, hopefully, educational experience and made new friends along the way. Not to mention I’ll be 20,000 words closer to my dream of publishing a novel.
And that will make NaNoWriMo worth every hair-raising, nail-biting, temper-snapping minute.