NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. From humble roots, it has turned into a huge global phenomenon and this article will tell you all about it. Moreover, we examine it from the perspective of a science fiction and fantasy writer.
What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo has a very simple premise. Participants aim to write a novel in one month. It takes place every November, and the word count you aim to meet is 50,000 words. Why 50,000 words you may ask? Well, the founder of NaNoWriMo arrived at this figure when trying to come up with a realistic monthly word count that was still a bona fide novel. He looked at books on his shelves and saw that the shortest novel was about 50,000 words. So he chose this figure. In fact, most novels are about 80-90,000 words but that is not realistic during only one month.
If you are going to accumulate 50,000 words in November, you need to write 1,667 every day. This is a lot, especially if you don’t normally write this many. If you plan to write 5 days a week and take weekends off then you have to write 2,272 words per day. Do you have the time available in your schedule? Do you have somewhere to write? If not, maybe you should wait until next year. Or take part in Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July.
Camp NanoWriMo is an offshoot of the main thing but there is traditionally more flexibility in what you work on. For example, in Camp Nano people might work on poems or they may revise their NaNo novel.
Here are some things to think about if you’re considering taking part in NaNoWriMo for science fiction and fantasy:
Tips for successfully completing NaNoWriMo for science fiction and fantasy
1. Choose your project.
NaNoWriMo is all about writing 50,000 words. However, of all the literary genres, science fiction and fantasy books are usually the longest. They often exceed 100,000 words. If this is the case with your proposed project, you could earmark November for writing just the first half of your novel. Or you could write the second half. The only rule is that you must write 50,000 new words. In this way you still participate in NaNoWriMo with a 50,000 word target without compromising your project.
2. Plan as much as possible.
The more you plan your novel the better your chances of finishing November with something that is coherent. Science fiction and fantasy novels are usually set in different worlds and consequently have a heavy worldbuilding component to them. You will therefore probably need to spend a lot of time planning your world. It is NaNoWriMo tradition to spend October planning your novel so you can dive in on 1 November and you will probably need all of October and even some of September.
The better your chapter by chapter outline or scene by scene outline, the better your chances of achieving 50,000 words in November. This is because November will be all about getting the words down as quickly as possible. There will be no time for thinking or ruminating. Or editing. Just write. You can edit in December.
There is a NaNoWriMo novel planning workbook which you can buy on Amazon or at Waterstones. It’s actually quite good and it is suitable if you’re writing a science fiction and fantasy novel; it takes into account worldbuilding and different races/aliens, for example. It’s called Ready, Set, Novel!
3. Use the resources
The NaNoWriMo website is very good. You can create and announce your project there, track your progress, and there are lots of resources for writing and planning a novel. There are also pep talks to keep you going and there is a huge community of fellow participants you can chat to in forums etc. All of this ramps up in November. Many, if not most, of the people on there are science fiction and fantasy writers, which is great as you can bounce ideas off each other and read the chats in the forums.
The website can point you to NaNoWriMo groups that meet in the real world too. I have found that these are predominantly composed of science fiction and fantasy writers. Groups meet heavily throughout November as you’d expect, but many continue to meet throughout the year too. For example my local one meets regularly all year round.
If you manage to write 50,000 words you can enter your novel into the website to prove you’ve done it. You are then classed as a NaNoWriMo winner and you get lots of winner goodies. Do not underestimate how good these goodies are. When I won a few years ago, I got a discount off Scrivener, a discount off Scribophile membership, a discount off Rescuetime and other prizes. The discounts were not small either. I loved all of my prizes and I still use them all. In particular Scrivener and Scribophile are awesome but that’s another article!
Well that’s all for now on NaNoWriMo. I wish you all every success if you’re participating. Good luck! Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!