A Goal to Get You Writing
NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is still a month off, but it’s not too soon to contemplate whether you want to participate. If you do, register with the NaNoWriMo website, read the rules, and then write a novel of roughly 50,000 words (about 175 pages) during November.
Yes, 50,000 words in a single month! That may seem crazy, but NaNoWriMo has taken place for the last ten years, and there's lots of guidance and support available online and in local writer chapters.
Thousands of people from all over the world have participated in NaNoWriMo, often starting with a mere thread of an idea and accomplishing by month’s end a full-fledged novel, or at least part of one. Even if you don’t finish—and lots of participants don’t—whatever amount you’ve written is way more than you would have written otherwise. The effort is every bit as important as the final product; even people who felt certain they couldn’t write anything of serious length have been amazed at what they’ve been able to produce.
Detractors claim that NaNoWriMo focuses on quantity, not quality, but that's exactly the point. By focusing on writing 50,000 words quickly, you don't have time to question whether it's good enough. That initial outpouring won’t be polished; first drafts rarely are. But that doesn't matter, because no one else is going to see it. And by writing nearly nonstop, you avoid the bad habit that many writers have of stopping every three words to edit them. Instead, you simply write, and you reserve any editing and revising you want to do until December and beyond.
If the thought of 50,000 words in a month makes your head spin, set a goal of writing only 25,000 words, or 10,000, or a “mere” 5,000. Or focus on something that feels more manageable: a short story, or a two-page essay, or a three-page article.
If writing fiction isn’t your thing, try nonfiction. If you’re stuck for topics, write about your work challenges or your best and worst customers—or write about how you’re stuck for topics. NaNoWriMo is a very flexible model; the thing is to commit to writing every day, all month long, with the goal of reaching a set target.
Remember: The goal isn't to produce a New York Timesbest seller; it's to learn to have fun writing and to break through a potentially crippling writer's block. One of the thrilling things about writing is that in the process, you often come up with ideas you didn't know you had. I sometimes look at what I've written and wonder, where in the world did that come from? It's just my mind going to places I didn't consciously take it. I’m certain that many NaNoWriteMo participants have had similar experiences. It could happen to you.