Oct 9, 2016

I'm Writing a Novel Next Month (And So Should You)

Ever said to yourself, "One day, I'm going to write a novel."
How does November 1 sound?
National Novel Writing Month starts in November. Run by the non-profit Offices of Letter and Light out of Berkeley, California, NaNoWriMo has been gaining in popularity and helping would-be authors fulfill their dreams since 1999. I personally have competed and completed 6 novels in 7 years and cannot recommend this completely free life-changing experience enough.

You could be a noveling machine!

I love this blogging website and I think everyone who is blogging about their lives in Japan should continue doing so for the betterment of all involved for as long as they possibly can, because it is awesome. I also think everyone should spend every other spare moment of November churning their way to novel-writing glory. 

The Few-ish. The Proud-like. The Wrimos.

Last year, over 400,000 people spent their Novembers doing the extraordinary. You might be asking why someone would push the art of novel-craft into one month, and the answer is simple: because they could. With the time limit and lots of other people writing, it's easier to see this as a race to the finish line rather than an arduous life-time process that may never end. If you write a NaNo Novel, you'll have a novel before the new year. You'll be a novelist. The sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that you produced a manuscript of considerable length is difficult to describe. Knowing that you can put that much thought and energy into one project, and that you can somehow carve time you didn't think you had out of the week can change your life. 

See that book? I wrote that book! I was also very pregnant in the photo.

You may instead by asking why on Earth someone would choose to do this while living abroad in Japan. Many of my fellow inaka-dwellers tend to be introverted writer-types (myself included) for whom the swell of confidence from finishing a NaNo novel can really change the course of the nearly-winter blues while giving you an further activity (editing) to work on when it's too cold to venture outside. Also, Nano is a great way to meet people, even in the countryside. Around half of the friendships I have made in Japan have been fostered by NaNoWriMo, whether they were people I met at a write-in, or someone I only met online. For people in major cities, there are also kick-off parties and tons of other events put together to help you write, mingle, and succeed.

The first time I heard of NaNo was at a Halloween party, my second autumn in Japan. Three of the other girls from North America were plotting out their novels but took the time to explain the thing to me. It sounded interesting, and my inner sense of competition took over. I had to do it and I had to win. At this point I had only ever written short stories and poems, previously considering a novel-length work terrifying, but something about needing to prove my writing prowess to those other women really lit a fire under me. My first 5,000 words flew by, prattled into my laptop, changing scenes, characters, everything as it suited me. I had a purpose. I cannot even remember if my friends finished that year, because I was so busy writing that I forgot about beating them or feeling that I needed to. Instead I put the words together. I created and annihilated a world. It was wonderful.

The non-profit also accepts donations during the event. If you'd like to help propel other authors forward by helping to keep NaNo running, you can receive all sorts of special goodies in return in the mail, including signed bookmarks, stickers, and temporary tattoos like the one above. The shop on the website also has a number of other products available including t-shirts and posters. They ship the t-shirts via envelope so the shipping to Japan is not insane.

Need more insentive to join? Companies that sponsor NaNo also contribute discounts and prizes to the winners and participants. Check out the website for more information. 



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • KevinC

    on Oct 9

    I hear NaNoWriMo a few years back, alway want to write a novel but never got the time to start it. Hope I can write and finish my first novel this year.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Oct 11

    @KevinC The trick is writing a little every day and keeping up with it every single day. Almost anyone can find 1 hour a day to write if they sit down and do it. Don't worry about it being perfect, or even good. Just write it now and fix it later. That's the trick, as far as I can see it. Let's be writing buddies! My screen name on the NaNoWriMo site is Pekifreak. Add me!

  • KotoCityCIR

    on Oct 12

    I love nanowrimo, and I'm so glad you wrote about this! I've been participating since my university days and have always found it very inspiring and a great way to (re)foster creativity. That being said though, I've failed to win during the last few years because of Real Life... Maybe this year...!

  • JTsuzuki

    on Oct 12

    @KotoCityCIR I am so glad to meet you, fellow WriMo! I know how it is, and making it to 50k has been a real challenge for me the past couple of years, too. Good luck this year! If you'd like to be my writing buddy, you can add me: Pekifreak. Also, I find 3 fifteen minute sprints a day usually gets me to around 2k. If you'd like to have a sprint-off, let me know!

  • KevinC

    on Oct 14

    @JTsuzuki Thanks for the tips, just added you as writing buddy. Hope I can finish my nano novel before this year :s