In case you haven't figured out, I'm kind of huge on this National Novel Writing Month thing.
You read that right. That's 50,000.
There aren't really any other rules, although you should start from scratch, and you can't write anything before November 1st. You can continue after November, obviously, and you can plan as much as you like ahead of time.
You may be thinking, how is this even possible? But it is. I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2005, and I've won every year I've done it. Steel Angel was a NaNo novel. So is the first Cosmic novel. Blue Impulse was done as a special Camp version of NaNoWriMo this past June. And it hasn't always been easy. I've done six hour commutes, worked crazy hours, went to school, even led people to do the same madness I did for five years as a Municipal Liaison. And I have pulled off a win every single year.
Sound like fun? The official address is http://www.nanowrimo.org; you can sign up any time throughout November. Once you sign up, pick where you live, and you can find all of the local events in your area. If you're not sure, you can still sign up. There aren't any 'prizes' for reaching 50,000 the fastest, or being done on time, other than some cool online swag and some serious bragging rights. Oh, did I mention the first draft of your novel?
To say I'm a NaNo pro is probably the wrong term to use, although I do have a few pieces of advice if this sounds up your alley:
1: Find people to write with. This doesn't have to be local, or even in person. The first year I did NaNo, I sat in my parents' basement on my desktop Mac and interacted with people on the forums. Having other writers doing the same thing as you and cheering you on is crucial to success. Writing events called "write-ins" are held across the country, where people get together and write together. If you can, find one in your area. If you can't, there are ones held online all the time.
2: Have at least some sort of a plan on November 1st. You don't have to plan like crazy like I do, but it helps to have some sort of a running idea that you can stick with throughout the month. As mentioned before, one of the few rules is that you start from scratch, but it can be an idea you love with characters you've known for years. It can even be fanfiction! (Though I've never done this during NaNo.) But having a couple of characters and at least a theme will work wonders and ensure you at least get to Week Two.
3: Pace yourself. Not everybody can write a hundred and three words per minute -- although I do make everybody at write-ins jealous. In order to reach 50,000 in a month, the site has figured out you need to write 1,667 words a day, which is totally doable. Any minute you spend writing will help you.
4: Find ways to write. When I moved to NYC, I knew doing NaNo on my laptop would be hard because I would spend so much time in transit. It's basically the only reason I switched from my slider to my iPhone -- and it also meant that the time I spent on the boat and the bus was time spent writing.
5: Reward yourself. I am a notorious Mountain Dew Code Red drinker; it's just my vice as a reader. Some need alcohol, or drugs, or sex. Give me Dew. (I'm such a Midwesterner.) The first year I did NaNo, I rewarded myself with Code Red and peanut butter M&Ms when I got to a certain count. Last year, it was cookies at Panera, where a lot of the Queens write-ins were held.
I'll be posting about NaNoWriMo all month long, and I'll probably be talking a lot as well about last year's novel, Cosmic: The Heart Of It All, which some of you picked up at NYCC. The actual release date is still in the works, but you'll see it here first.