This November I’m going to try to write a novel in 30 days, just like I have for the past thirteen Novembers. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month along with several hundred thousand other people from around the world.
The rules of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, are pretty simple: write a novel between November 1st and November 30th. You win if you hit the word count goal of 50,000. For reference, that’s about the length of The Great Gatsby. (War and Peace is over 500,000; this blog post is about 970.) There are no judges. There are no prizes. No one even has to read your novel unless you want them to. It’s pure art for art’s sake and it’s an absolute blast.
If you’re reading this you’re probably a mom who is very busy and wondering, “Why should I devote my precious little free time writing a novel?” Well, for starters...
- Writing is good for your health. Science says so!
- It’s a challenge with built-in cheerleaders. The NaNoWriMo community is incredibly supportive. We may gently compete with each other on word count but in the end everyone wants everyone else to succeed.
- It’s a good excuse to get out of the house. “Sorry, honey, I have to go to the coffee shop, I’m working on my novel, remember? See you in two hours!”
- You can meet new people. Some cities, Memphis included, have volunteer Municipal Liaisons who plan events throughout the month. There's a kick-off party and “write-ins” and Twitter word sprints and it’s all wrapped up with a “Thank Goodness It’s Over” party. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many friends I have made through NaNoWriMo, some of them very close, many of whom I would never have connected with otherwise.
- It’s fun. So much fun. Because NaNoWriMo deliberately values quantity over quality there’s less pressure for your writing to be perfect. It’s easy to let go and see where the story takes you.
“But I’m not a writer!” you might be saying. That’s fine. You don’t have to be an aspiring author to participate. You don’t even have to be good at writing. Although some novels written during NaNoWriMo have gone on to be published bestsellers (including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl), NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has a story to tell. Which is pretty much everyone. Lots of people have dreamed of writing a novel “some day.” NaNoWriMo helps make “some day” a reality.
“But seriously, I am too busy to write a novel.” It’s true there are often not enough hours in the day to get everything done we want to do and some things get so far to the bottom of the list they fall right off. Choose to prioritize your novel and you’ll be amazed at where you’ll find little bits of time to get writing done. Order out instead of cooking, skip Facebook and Netflix, let the laundry sit awhile longer, have your partner take over bedtime duties. It’s only a month! And at the end of it, whether you write 50,000 or 50 words, you’ll have attempted something incredible and possibly created something wonderful.
Still, I tapped a few local moms for their tips on how they fit writing into their day:
“Writing comes haaaaard for me. I have to get up an extra hour in the morning if I really want to write something for longer than five or ten minutes. That, or I do a little at naptime.
Or I throw on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and hope for the best...
BUT the best time I get some "time" to write - even if it’s just the smallest window of five or ten minutes - is when I am waiting in line to pick up my school aged kid. Writing in the car is the best...except for that one time that I forgot to put my car in park and almost rolled into the car in front of me. Lesson learned.” ~ Brooke, Senatobia, mom of two (with one on the way)
“Writing late at night is the only way for me. That and turning on My Little Pony, but it makes my “darker” scenes a bit harder to focus on. Using Google Drive means I can write on my phone and multiple computers. It gives me options to write when kiddo lets me.” ~ Jaclyn, Collierville, mom of one
“I started writing when my youngest was a newborn. At the beginning you write during naps and then you write when they go to bed. And then as they got older they didn’t go to bed at convenient times anymore so it was about being okay with the fact that when you were done writing there would probably be a disaster in the living room. It’s giving yourself permission to sit down and write even though you know you need to do the dishes and the laundry and other stuff. But if you really really want to write sometimes you have to sit down and really write.” ~ Hilaire, Memphis, mom of three
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days.” ~ JK Rowling, Edinburgh, mom of three
Okay, that last one is not a Memphis mom, but JK Rowling was a single mother when she wrote the first Harry Potter book. And now she’s a bazillionaire.
Whether you want to be the next Rowling or just having something interesting to tell people at parties, NaNoWriMo is a good start. You can read more and get signed up at the official National Novel Writing Month site. Then check out the Memphis Regional Forum and the Memphis NaNoWriMo Facebook Group for more information on local events.