At this time of year, the blogosphere is full of chatter about NaNoWriMo. Many writers love it. Other writers hate it. (Full disclosure: I fall into the former camp. This will be my seventh NaNo.) But what if you fall in between? What if you like the idea but you know there's no way you can hit 50,000 words on a new novel in November? Here are some suggestions that might help, from least to most radical...
1. Do NaNo in another month. If you want to try a writing challenge but November is just a bad month, you have options! This year, the NaNoWriMo people put on Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer. They also do a screenwriting challenge, Script Frenzy. Other challenges have sprung up using the same model – NaNo-style challenges in most other months, National Novel Editing Month, National Novel Writing Year, and so on. Pick the one that works for you.
2. Invoke the Zokutou clause. This is an unofficial clause that states that if you have won NaNo once, you can use a work in progress and still claim a win as long as you write 50,000 new words in November. This can be more challenging than a regular NaNo because you're already invested in the story, so it's harder to let go and write at the breakneck creative pace that NaNo demands. But it's still doable and worth considering, especially if your WIPs outnumber your completed drafts.
3. Be a NaNo Rebel. The Zokutou clause is one way to do this, but there are others. People have written memoirs and other non-fiction works, for example. There's even a place for such endeavours on the NaNo forums.
4. Set yourself a different word count goal. At the NaNoWriMo website, it's all about 50,000 words, all the time. Having a goal that's set in stone lends a certain amount of power, it's true. But if that number is far too intimidating, you can still take part. Hang out on the forums. Go to some local events. Look up #nanowrimo on Twitter. Soak up all that creative energy and use it to write more than you normally would in a month. Even if you end the month with just 5,000 extra words, that's still 5,000 words that you wouldn't have had otherwise. And maybe you'll even surprise yourself with how far you get.
5. Set yourself a goal that's not about word count. Maybe you want to get back to the joy of creation and stop thinking about publishing for a month (this is one of my absolute favourite things about NaNo). Maybe you want to establish a habit of writing every day. Maybe you want to connect with other writers. Maybe you want to edit a novel and need an extra push to get started. Maybe you just want to finish your outline. Again, you'll have to filter out the noise about reaching 50,000 words, but there's no reason you can't piggyback on the huge push of creativity that is NaNo.
NaNoWriMo, by its very nature, is inclusive. Anybody can attempt it. But their rules don't work for everybody. With a little creative thinking, you can adapt it to suit your needs. If you do, let me know how it goes! Drop a comment here or send me a NaNoMail. I'd love to hear from you.
Update: Great minds think alike -- Suzanne Lazear has done a similar post, except hers comes with prizes!