Writing a novel is an epic undertaking. The general consensus is that a novel is a piece of writing of at least 50.000 words. The average length is about twice that number and some authors go way beyond that. In terms of pages, there is a writing rule of thumb which guestimates that you get about 250 words on a page. In other words, 50.000 words is about 200 pages.
Whichever way you look at it, there are a lot of words in a novel. Many people say they want to write a novel. Usually they mean that they want to have written a novel. A bit in the same way that some people want to have run a marathon. It sounds epic and like a great achievement. But we preferably want to ignore the hard work in the middle.
If writing a novel is already an epic endeavor, then doing so in a month is completely crazy*. And yet, each year in November, thousands of people from around the world try to do exactly this in the NaNoWriMo challenge. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.
The rules of NaNoWriMo are pretty simple. The goal is to write at least 50.000 words in a single piece of writing. This story can be about anything, as long as it’s an original piece of work. Writing starts on November 1st and ends November 30th, and only words written between these dates count towards the total.
Simple math says that to “win” NaNoWriMo, a participant needs to write a minimum of 1.667 words per day, each and every day. Of course, you can skip a day. But you need a day with 3.334 words or two days with 2.500 words to make up for the missed day. To put this in perspective, Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers out there. A lot of people are in awe of how much he writes. And even he sets a writing goal of “only” 2.000 words per day.
This year, I’m joining NaNoWriMo.
Why? For starters, I want to have written a novel. I have an idea for a story in my head that feels like it’s long enough to go over 50.000 words. It’s a story I want to write. Additionally, I want to see if I can get into a writing routine where I write each day. After all, writing anything, whether it’s a short story or a novel is mainly a case of applying butt to chair and typing. And trying to get it done in a month doesn’t actually change the time needed behind the keyboard. It simply reduces the number of days by cramming as much writing into a single month as possible.
Lastly, it’s worth considering the worst-case scenario. What happens if I don’t make it? Nothing really. I’ll still have written a lot. The story will be further along than at the beginning of the month. And I can just continue writing in December. Of course, I’ll miss out on the bragging rights that come with winning NaNoWriMo. But I think I can get over that.
Still, it will be an epic quest. When writing, I manage about 500 words per hour. This means that to write at least 50.000 words in a month I need to have 100 hours of writing time. Which comes down to about 3.5 hours per day.
I very much doubt I’ll find this time available on each and every day in November. I already know I’ll have a couple of social obligations which will get in the way. So, I’ll have my own challenge. I will set myself two goals. The first one is to write 30.000 words in November, or 1.000 words a day on average. The second goal will be the NaNoWriMo goal of 50.000 words. I’ll consider this a stretch goal.
I’ll track my progress in a follow-up post, starting November 1st. Let the writing begin.
*Writing a novel in a month here means writing the first draft. Rewriting will be necessary.