by Kathryn Marshall
So November is almost over (I know! Wasn’t yesterday July 10???) which means…National Novel Writing Month is almost over too! (Imagine a scream emoji here because that’s how I’m feeling right now).
1. What is National Novel Writing Month?
2. What does this have to do with Day One, a journaling app?
3. Does anyone want fries after this?
(Question 3 is a lie, everyone always wants fries after this).
First begun in 1999, National Novel Writing Month is an international endeavor that challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. The only official prize is the satisfaction of hitting 50,000 or more words before your local clock strikes midnight on December 1. Some participants have turned their NaNo projects into professional works, available for sale wherever fine reading material is sold. Others (*coughlikemecoughcough*) just do it for the Vine (oh wait, Vine isn’t around anymore? Okay, well we just do it for the lulz then).
In recent years, the Powers that Be at NaNoWriMo have loosened up the rules about what constitutes a true NaNoWriMo project: now you can work on a non-fiction manuscript or include a work-in-progress novel (but only words written during November 1 and November 30 count towards that 50k goal). Write-ins–events where members meet up for a designated time to write–can take place online or offline, offering “WriMos” companionship, camaraderie, and lighthearted competition as they race towards that 50k finish line.
The NaNoWriMo forums offer more support and camaraderie in the form of threads about plot, characterization, reference help, music suggestions, and debates about the best type of writing tool (you have no idea how many different ways there are to physically write your novel until you take a gander through the “NaNo Technology” sub-forum and its various threads extolling the merits of everything from typewriters, to Google Docs, to speech-to-text software).
2. What does NaNoWriMo have to do with Day One, a journaling app?
That is such a good question! (Really, it is. I generally avoid sarcasm in my writing because it’s so hard to convey). We all know that while Day One was primarily designed as a journaling app, its uses have grown by leaps and bounds. People use Day One for photography, gratitude, health, family stories, etc. You can have a dedicated journal for anything and Day One will not break a sweat. So why not a writing and revision journal?
Lots of published authors have kept some form of diary or journal specifically to track their work, including John Steinbeck and Virginia Woolf.
Having all of your plot ideas, character sketches, random ideas, deleted bits, etc. in one place can be a life saver for the busy or distracted writer. And after the clock strikes midnight on December 1, your amazing, fantabulous, spectacular writing journal (powered by Day One) can morph into…an editing journal! Writing one’s book is only the first step, after all. Between typing “The End” in your word processor du jour and seeing a bound, for-sale copy of your book in the local store (…or Amazon.com, let’s be real here) lies a whole world of writing, rewriting, cutting, copying, pasting, writing some more, rewriting some more, throwing out whole chapters in a late-night panic attack, etc. (Writing is the best profession ever, right?).
Keeping all those notes and excerpts in one place—whether it’s a paper notebook or a Day One journal—can mean the difference between a half-finished manuscript that languishes on Dropbox and an actual, published work that touches the hearts of millions. You can tag character sketches, location notes, add pictures, etc. Being able to call up your writing notebook on any device running Day One means never worrying about missing a jolt of inspiration or writing session, either.
When I set off on this year’s National Novel Writing Month adventure, I knew things would be a bit tricky. Instead of starting a new manuscript from scratch, I would be adding to an existing story (that actually first took shape several NaNos ago). The story had stalled as Real Life kept intruding and I hoped NaNoWriMo 2018 would be a chance to jump-start my brain back into novel-writing mode. In addition to the existing chapters, I had research notes, random plot ideas, character sketches, etc. that all needed to be corralled appropriately. I sometimes rely on free writingexercises and Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” before I start actually writing, because it’s like warming up before an actual race. You need to stretch your mental muscles as much as your physical ones before you start a strenuous adventure. All that can live in my Day One writing journal for whenever I have a spare moment (or a whole afternoon).
Now that we’re coming up to the end of November, I still find Day One to be an invaluable tool in my writing arsenal. I’ve added about 8600 new words to my manuscript, and mapped out plans for existing chapters. I’ve got a better sense of which revisions need to happen and where. Just the near-daily routine of free writing exercises and morning pages has kept my spirits up on days when even writing a text message seems like a bridge too far. I can’t wait to see where my writing projects take me next and Day One will be right there with me.
3. Does anyone want fries after this?
Since it’s the day after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we’re getting sweet potato fries. Trust me.