By Samantha Martin
When I first heard the phrase, “nanowrimo”, it was actually from another JET, slipped into conversation as we chatted about things we were up to.
“Yeah, gonna try for nanowrimo this year,” they said casually. I thought they had spouted off some random word at me in Japanese, so I politely went “へー？” and then proceeded to tilt my head to the side in wait for their reply.
“Um, okay,” they said, “NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s all of November.”
“へーー？!” I asked, stuck on a loop of incredulity that was steadily spiraling out of control.
“You… you just write, for a month,” my friend said while kind of scooting a bit away from me, as I was still in the midst of spouting ええええ’s all over the air between us. “You just write, and don’t think about anything else but writing, and try to get out a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month.”
“H-” I stop myself. I have legit questions now, not just noises of surprise. “So what you’re saying is, you just write for a month?”
“Yes,” my friend says, bracing for another puff of surprised air. But instead, I assault their earholes with a volley of valid and totally good questions.
“You just write, don’t worry about editing or rewriting, and try to reach a word goal of at least 50,000 words? What if you have never written that much before? What if you don’t think you can finish a novel? How do you even keep track? How do you know what word goal you should set for your daily writing? What if you are too busy to write every day, huh? What then?”
“First off, for all those questions you have, there is a special place that has all the answers. You just go here,” my friend told me, magically linking a website to NaNoWriMo’s official page with their speech. I knew if I clicked on the word they’d just spoken I would get taken directly to where I needed to be. “You go to this website, you register, and it charts your progress. You can choose to go through forums and ask for help, advice, support, even beta readers! You can connect with other writers, track their progress, encourage each other. You can upload excerpts of your story for the public to read, and you can chart your writing with tangible numbers.”
“All this sounds awesome,” I said, “But what about the month before that? What about October?”
“Well, first off, try to refrain from only writing about your love for pumpkin spice everything for four weeks,” my friend said, and then ducked the fork that I threw at them, expertly aimed at their eye for uttering such blasphemy. The fork bounced off the wall behind them and they continued, “Next, you’ll want to outline your novel to make the writing process easier.”
“I never outline, it does not make me hyappay,” I said in my best, most pretentious Maid Marianne from “Men In Tights” impression. My friend sucks a tooth and waits patiently for me to break character.
“You don’t outline? No judgment here. People who don’t outline are more than welcome to just write, there are really no hard and fast rules to this thing. But if you want to outline, I have some advice for you. You ready for this?”
“Fine,” I said. And just because I love you, O Lauded Reader of the GMA, I compiled all of the completely true, actually-happened advice that my friend totally gave me on preparing for NaNoWriMo. Here goes. Ahem-hem.
1. Get a broad sense for what you want to write about. Get inspired. What genre would you like to write about? Would you like to just free-write a bunch of words and count that, because it totally counts if you do.
2. Outline how you see fit. Do you want to flesh out your characters? Do you want to plot your story arc with each climax detailed down to the letter? Do you just want to come up with cool names for places you want to describe? Do that. Prep.
3. Get an idea for how long you want your novel to be. Will it actually be 50k words? More?? LESS?? Anything is okay. This is really just an excuse to write without feeling like you need to police your writing.
4. Share excerpts of your writing with GMA.
Okay that last one is totally optional, but still. I know there are writers out there among the throngs of ALTs: I’ve talked to you. I want you to come forward, to proudly share anything you have whether it be an outline, a character bio, a paragraph from a chapter right in the middle-ANYTHING. We love it all.
This sounds simple enough, and if you’re a writer it should sound kind of, sorta inspiring right? Right! It’s a chance to get all hyped up and jazzed for your writing, no matter your goal, and get support from other writers going through the same thing. So for 2014, I’m calling all JET writers to come forth and do this with me. If you’re looking to find buddies on NaNoWriMo, my username is Samzilla; if you’re not, I’ll golf-clap your accomplishments from way over here. Either way, let’s prep to conquer this beast together: just you, me, and GMA on a team to tame that 50k word beast you have in your head. You with me?
“Let’s hope so,” my friend said, because even in our past, totally realistic conversation, they were looking forward to seeing what you end up writing.
Do you write? Prose, poetry, rants, advice or blog posts? Are you going to NaNoWriMo?? We wanna read it! Send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org