Each November, brave souls across the country pledge to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. For this project, writers are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in a mere 30 days. Those who want to participate register at the National Novel Writing Month website ( http://nanowrimo.org/ ), which helps writers record their day-to-day progress and also provides contact information for local support groups. Last year 310,095 people completed the project and became novelists. Sound like an impossible task? Here are some thoughts and advice from Craig Pearson, a recent MSU graduate and current University of Cambridge student who has completed four novels through NaNoWriMo.
KG: Why did you decide to participate in National Novel Writing Month?
CP: I really wanted to finish something that I’d started. As a kid, I loved writing and making up stories, and I would spend weeks building fantasy worlds and characters, mapping out plot lines, imagining settings. But then when I went to write these big, overstuffed novels, I’d get about halfway and lose steam. Then another, better idea would come along, and I would jump ship. So I was feeling this desire to actually complete something, to have a finished work I could step back and look at. NaNoWriMo pushes you to do just that.
KG: What was the most difficult part of writing every day?
CP: The most difficult part of writing every day is writing every day. That’s an unhelpful answer, but it’s entirely accurate. To push further, I’d say that the real challenge is getting over your own bad writing. As with anything, you have good days and bad days, and with NaNoWriMo, you don’t have the luxury of saying, “I messed this plot up, I’d better go back and revise and try again.” You just have to follow whatever you’ve written and forge ahead. For someone with an intense editing instinct, I found that brutally challenging — but also ultimately liberating.
KG: What was the most beneficial part of participating in this project?
CP: It teaches you how to write. I would not necessarily endorse NaNoWriMo as a means of producing top quality writing — it’s really a sandbox where you can get dirty and messy and practice and learn. By refusing to let yourself be tripped up by your own mistakes, you write past them. Every day is like a second wind. It’s painful and often ugly, but it does force you to grow, and I am grateful to have had those opportunities to develop my own voice and style.
KG: What advice would you give to others who are thinking about writing a novel in a month?
CP: If you’re going to do it, really commit to it. Don’t let yourself give up halfway through. That completely defeats the purpose of NaNoWriMo, and it might make you less likely to be successful later on. NaNoWriMo is a time to experiment and try on different voices, different styles and different writing techniques. Embrace it. Go all in. Be confident that even if your novel is awful, you as a writer will emerge on the other side with incredible improvement and insight.
Katie Grimes is a professional writing and religious studies student. She enjoys using obscure words (such as “colloquial” and “pastiche”) in all contexts and has a strange fascination with Star Trek. Her varied interests include feminism, reading Shakespeare and drinking caffeinated beverages.