JuNoWriMo 2016.

I participated in JuNoWriMo last month. JuNoWriMo and it's cousin NaNoWriMo have become important tools in my writing toolbox. Let me try to explain why.

JuNoWriMo is a project similar to NaNoWriMo, in that you dedicate yourself to writing fifty thousand words, a short novel, over the course of the month. I like participating in stuff like this because I'm not great at getting work done without a deadline, and when you work for yourself, your deadlines must be self-imposed.

I don't find fifty thousand words in a month to be too much of a stretch; my stated goal for June was eighty thousand words, and I didn't reach that, but I exceeded the fifty thousand word goal by around five thousand words, while at the same time taking ten days off for finals. I expect that if I had those ten days to work instead of having to study and work on projects, I would have finished the manuscript easily.

Fifty thousand words breaks out to approximately one thousand, six hundred and sixty six words per day. If I know what I'm writing that day, and I've thought it out in enough detail, I can easily put down a thousand words in thirty minutes. That's why the fifty thousand goal is kind of small potatoes for me. That's dedicated writing time, though, which means ignoring the siren song of social media and the web. It's also because I'm already an accomplished typist, having worked in offices for my entire adult life.

Some people might find the fifty thousand word goal intimidating for a variety of reasons, and I'm lucky that I'm able-bodied and able-minded enough to do such concentrated work.

Writing, especially when you're publishing independently, is a volume game. You need to put out enough work that people remain engaged, that you take up sufficient real estate on Amazon to gain a boost to visibility. In traditional publishing, it can take a year or more to get a book from finished manuscript to bookstore shelves, so the pressure to produce is less. Someone like me can already write fast enough to outpace traditional production schedules.

Projects like NaNoWriMo and JuNoWriMo are games of discipline. They're about setting aside enough time every day to sit down and write, and to be able to write consistently for long enough each day to reach your average daily word count goal. I highly recommend them for people who are considering writing as a career; it is a low-risk exercise, meaning that if you fail to reach the fifty thousand word goal, you lose nothing. It requires nothing more than consistency and discipline and an idea. In fact, my first two NaNoWriMo projects were never published and likely never will be. The goal at that stage was simply to be able to get enough words of narrative together in one place to prove that I could do it.

And that kind of "proof of concept" approach is valuable. If you've never written a full length novel before and you want to, JuNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo are great ways to do it. I personally prefer JuNoWriMo, since it's not during the holiday season and since it's generally a smaller group and therefore has a more intimate feel to it, but either can accomplish this goal. The idea of writing an entire novel can be hugely intimidating, but if you just focus on the daily word count goal each day it seems much more manageable. the daily word count goal needed to reach fifty thousand words in thirty days amounts to two or three of these blog posts, and that's it. That's a stretch for someone who hasn't already established a daily writing habit, but it's not the unclimbable mountain that writing an entire novel looks like. 

Even if you type slowly, you can make the daily goal even on top of a full time job. I was employed full time during my first NaNoWriMo. There are other challenges that take up our time aside from work, and so parents or those who need to hold multiple jobs may find this to be more of a challenge. It's important to know that it's possible, though. That's the stumbling block most people face, and the kind of support that you receive in communities centered around these events is important. The communities hold you accountable, and celebrate your successes, and mourn your failures with you. They can't do the work for you, but that kind of support can keep you moving forward.

And once you're past that mental hurdle, once you've realized that you can, in fact, write an entire book, everything starts to look a little more possible. It's still work, and it's hard work, but you sit down to work knowing that you're up to the challenge. And honestly? Sometimes that makes all the difference.