Yes, it’s November, and that means another NaNoWriMo is here again!
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual event where writers from around the globe get together to produce a novel’s worth of output in a single month. Since everybody works through this challenge as a group, there’s a baked-in support network. There are regional groups and meetups too, so you’ll always have others who can help you through the marathon.
Why take part? If you complete the challenge, you have fifty-thousand words! What happens if you fail? Nothing, really! Let’s say you only (note the emphasis on only) manage thirty-thousand words, you’re still thirty-thousand words ahead of where you were in October, right? Same deal if you “only” write ten-thousand, five-thousand, or even one hundred words.
And what if the words don’t feel right? Consider this an exercise in speed writing combined with an introduction to a vibrant and fun community of like-minded people.
NaNoWriMo isn’t for everybody, but it might be just the thing you need to get moving on that big project you’ve been procrastinating.
If this is something you’re interested in, here are three great books that can help you reach the finish line. And they’re all affiliate free, so we’re not trying to make any money off these sales–these are genuine recommendations.
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
If anyone should know how to tackle NaNoWriMo, it’s Chris Baty. After all, he’s the one who started this whole party back in 1999.
No Plot? No Problem! is a light-hearted look at the process of throwing away common sense and writing a book in a month. Baty uses a combination of humour and teaching by example to show how anybody–even the inexperienced or unprepared–can produce fifty-thousand words in thirty days.
The book is full of tips and exercises from Baty and friends, and for many people, has become an essential guide to completing this monumental challenge. Who would have thought that cranking out so many words in such a short time could be so fun?
Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker
You might be wondering if this has turned into a different kind of book list, but rest assured, this is indeed a book about the writing process.
Take Off Your Pants describes the difference between pantsing and plotting. Many writers fall into one of these two camps. Pantsing is a light way of describing a writing process in which you write in the moment, letting the characters determine their own path. Plotting, in contrast, involves some amount of preparation before you even begin writing, to determine who your characters are, what their world looks like, and why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Hawker’s goal is to show you why plotting can be superior to pantsing, at least as far as producing a lot of words is concerned. And not just the number of words, but the quality of those words. If you’re looking to improve the speed at which you can produce a fine piece of writing, you can’t go wrong by reading this book.
On Writing by Stephen King
This book is a classic text by a prolific author. I’ve read and re-read this several times, and have given it as a gift to friends and family.
On Writing is part instruction manual, part biography. Stephen King has led a singular life full of ups and downs. The man can produce words like few others, and this book is a deep dive into his life and process. Absolutely enlightening, although polarizing. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, and most seem to love it.
King doesn’t pull many punches in this book. If you want to succeed, you have to do the work. Hobbyist writers are free to produce at their own pace, of course, and there are lots of great tips in here. However, if you don’t want to do the work, you might need to ask yourself if this is the career you really want to be involved with.