Embarking on the journey of creating a novel is like setting sail on an uncharted sea, armed with nothing but a pen, paper, and one’s imagination. Well over thirteen years ago, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time with nothing more than an idea and a used Alphasmart typewriter I purchased off of eBay. Since the book was recommended on the website, I also purchased Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem.” It’s the book that started the entire Nano craze. As we begin another November and National Novel Writing Month, I think about the steps that transformed the daunting task of novel creation into a reality.
In my days as a novelist, I recall the first crucial step Baty advocates: silencing the inner critic. That nagging voice, once whispered doubts about the quality of my prose or the legitimacy of my ideas. NaNoWriMo taught me the art of temporarily muting this internal voice, allowing the words to flow freely. By liberating myself from perfectionism, I discovered the joy of unrestricted creativity.
The next step was to embrace the writing process without a planned plot. As a poet, I appreciate spontaneity while creating poems, but NaNoWriMo’s encouragement of “pantsing” is what started me on this path. While I now plot my books loosely before I draft, learning how to “fly by the seat of my pants” as Baty calls it, helped me to connect with my inner muse. This is a vital spark of writing poetry.
Learning about word counts and tracking your words as a method of measuring your process was also a good tool to learn during Nano. I admit as a poet, word count is not quite as useful. Sometimes I might spend a lengthy amount of time deciding where to place a comma! Yes, this is a thing. But when writing prose, I admit keeping track of your words and hitting that sweet spot of 1600 words a day is a good habit to develop. The first time I wrote fifty thousand words in a single month, was an astonishing event for me. One I would repeat for many more years to come. It all comes down to the method.
The most important part of Nanowrimo is the power of community. Getting out there and joining your fellow wrimos to write and share your knowledge of the process, is the biggest push you can get as a writer. Even though I am no longer a municipal liaison with Nanowrimo, I still value getting out to a write-in now and then. I meet up with my fellow writers and turn the solitary act of writing into a collaborative action. These days, I end up teaching others more than learning new techniques, but it feels good to pass on my learning forward.
I suppose that “No Plot, No Problem” served as my compass in those early years. I still recommend it as a good book to new writers. From silencing the inner critic to setting ambitious goals, and celebrating small victories, each step in Baty’s guide contributed to the rewarding experience of crafting my first novel. NaNoWriMo’s approach is not just about writing; it’s about fostering a love for storytelling, nurturing creativity, and building a supportive community.
If you are thinking about starting Nanowrimo for the first time, I hope you go forward. Even if you don’t make the writing goal, at least you tried. In my book, that makes you a winner! Find more information about Nanowrimo at https://nanowrimo.org.
Wendy Van Camp is the Poet Laureate for the City of Anaheim, California. Her work is influenced by cutting edge technology, astronomy, and daydreams. She is a nominated finalist for the Elgin Award, a Pushcart Prize, and for a Dwarf Stars Award. Her poems, stories, and articles have appeared in: “Star*Line”, “Scifaikuest”, and “Indy Author Magazine”, among many others. She is the editor of two annual poetry anthologies “Eccentric Orbits” and “Anaheim Poetry Review”, and a guest editor for the SFPA’s “Eye To The Telescope”. She is a graduate of the Ad Astra Speculative Fiction Workshop and a member of SFWA, Codex, SFPA, and IBPA. Find her books on all major online retailers. Learn more at http://wendyvancamp.com
Take a literary exploration of the solar system in Wendy Van Camp's debut poetry collection, nominated twice for the Elgin Award for Best Speculative Poetry Book of the Year in 2020 and 2021. It features her signature science fiction haiku (scifaiku) and astropoetry. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Z8HMPF2
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No Wasted Ink is a free monthly newsletter featuring an original writing tips essay, a monthly “ramble” by Poet Laureate Wendy Van Camp, and her poem of the month. Wendy’s upcoming events, places where she has recently published or appeared on podcasts is listed. The Ramblecast is a voiceover podcast reading of the essay, ramble, and poem in the poet’s voice which comes in your email along with the written newsletter.