Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo 20 years ago in July 1999. That’s right—the first run of NaNo was in July with 21 participants (a decent number of people for a brand new idea). Next year, they moved the event to November. 140 people took part, and 29 of them completed the challenge. These days, hundreds of thousands participate every year, and tens of thousands finish a 50,000-word manuscript by the end of the month. Writers from all around the world sign up. Often, they’re younger than the event itself.
NaNoWriMo is cool. They bring people together, give them all sorts of tools and resources and challenge them to step out of their comfort zone and finally write the damn thing. It’s great if you’ve always wanted to have a stab at writing a novel and never got around to it. Or perhaps try and see if writing might be something you would enjoy.
Here’s a fun fact: although I’ve been writing fiction for a number of years now, I’ve never taken part in NaNo. I wish I could do it, but unfortunately, I am way too slow a writer to have a chance at sustaining a daily cadence of 1,667 words for a month. I prefer working at a slower pace.
Although it is out of my reach, I still think that it’s a great thing that it exists. It’s a yearly festival that celebrates writers and what it takes to be a writer — sitting down and writing things. It’s not only for the apprentices and budding scribes. Every year, a variety of professional writers join to work on drafts that may already be lined up for publication. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Wool by Hugh Howey are some of the bestsellers penned during the event. In November 2008, Marissa Meyer completed drafts of the first three novels in The Lunar Chronicles series (Cinder, Scarlet and Cress), totalling 150,011 words. That still blows my mind.
If 5,000 words per day every day for a month doesn’t sound achievable to you, you can still use the buzz in the writing community to your advantage. November is as good a month as any to challenge yourself. It doesn’t have to be a crazy daily word count. Maybe you could read a few books? Or write for 15 minutes every day? Perhaps you want to finish a short story and submit it to a magazine?
Last year in November, I challenged myself to read a short story every day for the full month. Pretty soon, it became a habit, and I’ve read hundreds of short stories ever since.
As of me, I’m not sure what will my challenge be this year. Any tips?
What I Am Reading?
I finished Man’s Search for Meaning this week by Viktor E. Frankl—an Austrian professor of psychology and a Holocaust survivor. The author tells a harrowing story of his experience of four different concentration camps, followed by a thoughtful essay on logotherapy. It’s a short book, and I enjoyed it immensely. To avoid repeating the grave mistakes of ancestors, we need to keep learning and re-learning the lessons from the past.
The atrocity that WWII was to become started from a seed of hate that its architects were able to exploit in the people that later became supporters or sympathisers. The responsibility lies with every one of us to free our minds of hate and fear as much as we can so that nobody can exploit those in support of their vile political agenda.
Next, I’ll be reading Hooked by Nir Eyal.
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