November is National Novel Writing Month
…or so it has been declared by the creators of NaNoWriMo and the many participants who have taken on the challenge of writing a novel in thirty days. They know that writing a novel is simple. Anyone can do it, even the youngest of writers.
Step one: write a word.
A single word on a blank page, whether it be in a notebook or a document on your computer. The first step is simply to write a word.
Step two: write another word.
And so it goes: word after word after word, until you reach 50,000 or so and your manuscript is complete.
Writing a novel is simple.
Writing a good novel takes a bit more work.
I’ve written more than a couple full-length novel manuscripts over the years. None of them were worth reading, but they were all worth writing. Letting thousands of words flow out onto the page has taught me more about writing than any book or class could. Taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50K words in 30 days taught me discipline and perseverance. I had to write, even when I didn’t feel like it. Rereading my many words, I learned to recognize good writing and bad. I learned to hear my own voice, and I learned that practice really does help bring you closer to perfect.
I wrote my last novel-length manuscript in 2011. Over the next five years I focused on poetry (both fiction and non-fiction). I developed my voice and taught myself the art of storytelling through writing short pieces.
Then I wrote a book. Not a novel, but an instructional book teaching the process of designing and making an artisanal skirt. Through writing this book I proved to myself that I didn’t have to limit myself to short stories and poetry. I could write a multi-thousand-word book — and a good one, at that.
Writing a novel, and writing it well.
This November I am again participating in NaNoWriMo, and this year I’m prepared to complete a beautiful story.
By “prepared” I mean that I’ve taken everything that I’ve learned about myself over the years — my voice and the way I tell stories — and outlined the sort of novel I was meant to write. I’ve set myself up for success by developing the storyline in advance. During the month of November, I don’t have to make any decisions about plot and structure, I can simply focus on writing.
I’ll be sharing more about my process in the coming weeks. For now, I’m going to get back to writing.