So you’ve committed one month of your time to the frenzy that is National Novel Writing Month. If you’re the type of person that can sit down and steadily churn out sixteen hundred words in an hour, this guide is not for you! You’re one of the lucky few, however. In 2009, there were 167,150 official participants and 32,178 winners – meaning that under one fifth of the people participating actually achieved their goal.
How did this winner achieve her goal? She recognized that sitting and quietly typing up a chapter a day was not the approach for her. Every word I wrote was in a short spurt of writing called a “sprint,” during which an entire community of people – up to fifty and sometimes more, spilling into second chat rooms when the first was full – fell silent and wrote relentlessly until time was called by the person leading.
What next? Chatter! With such a fun approach to what should be a fun event, I am surprised that so many fail. This guide should open their eyes to the fun of sprinting. To run a successful sprint, follow the following steps:
1. Find a community. There are so many options to find where you belong that I couldn’t possibly list them all. I joined a National Novel Writing Month community on LiveJournal, but there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the event, forums spread across the internet, and NaNoWriMo’s own forums to choose from.
2. Find a medium. The options include IRC, chatting websites like Chatzy or Xat, or messengers that allow multiple users in one session, such as AIM, Skype, ICQ and MSN. The possibilities are endless, but they should be either easily accessible or commonly used by your community.
3. Get people involved. Running a successful sprint is easy as long as you have people turning up when they know the room will be open. Your friends will make the entertainment and keep coming back as long as they’re enjoying themselves!
4. Keep things interesting. While there is certainly nothing wrong with sprinting for five minutes and then chatting for ten, sprinting a total of twenty minutes per hour, you can pile on the pressure by changing the duration every time and leaving it as a surprise. Include a word prompt to challenge and inspire your audience. Compare word counts at the end of every sprint to help motivate people. I personally knew a girl that accomplished one thousand words in eight minutes, more than halfway completing her daily goal!
5. Have fun with it! During the sprints, the chat room should ideally remain silent, but be forgiving to new people that wander in and don’t realize that you’re in the middle of something. Don’t worry if the room is very quiet one day and find a wide variety of people willing to run sprints at odd hours of the day, especially in different time zones.
Hopefully you will find sprinting to be as entertaining and worthwhile as I did. Enjoy yourself while working toward your goal word count and connecting with friends sharing the same goal all across the world!
National Novel Writing Month