Winning NaNoWriMo

[A member of Exeter Writers reflects on how she spent last month.]

Each November, writers all over the world challenge themselves to write fifty thousand words in a month. The more mathematically minded among you will already have done the calculation, but for everyone else, that’s just 1667 words each day, every day, for thirty days.

All writers know that the first draft of any piece of writing is rudimentary, rough - or maybe just rubbish. But it’s the raw material we work with: rewriting, editing, polishing, until we have something we are happy to let other people see. So NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality, and is just one way to stimulate our creativity.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it has become known, began in July 1999 when twenty one writers from San Francisco challenged themselves to get a novel drafted in a month. The following year they moved it to November, since the weather is worse and people are less likely to be distracted; that second year there were 140 participants, of whom twenty nine completed the challenge. Last year more than 325,000 writers took part and nearly 60,000 kept going to the end. In the early days, originator Chris Baty manually verified the word count of the so-called ‘winners’; these days it is all automated and for anyone who likes charts and numbers, the website is a delight to play with.

Some writers stick to the original ‘rules’ and use the time to write the first draft of a novel. Others interpret them more loosely. The first time I ‘won’, which was in 2013 - my third attempt - I wrote twenty five short stories, each on 2000 words or more. Last year I wrote a large chunk of my current work in progress. This year I have been writing some missing chapters for that book plus outlines, character studies and early chapters for two further novels in the same series.

And on Sunday 29th November, with more than 24 hours still to run, I cleared the finishing line with 50,151 newly-written words on file. None of them are polished; some of them may never see the light of day - but all of them were written because of Chris Baty and friends. So I applaud them. Now, where's my editing pen?