NaNoWriMo vs Faber Writing Academy’s Writing A Novel course

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After lots of great writing advice for NaNoWriMo from published authors Jack Heath, Margo Lanagan and Lili Wilkinson, we asked Faber Writing Academy alumni Philippa Brandon how she’d compare our six month Writing A Novel course with the one month writing blast of NaNoWriMo. Here she shares her insights to help those considering National Novel Writing Month:

It’s time for NaNoWriMo again and I’m gearing up for 30 days of literary abandon after the quality and craft focus of the amazing Writing A Novel Course at the Faber Writing Academy in Sydney.

November’s huge literary event, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was established in 1999 and has become an international writing movement freeing writers from perfection and encouraging them to simply write.

Anyone can join in, it’s free and everyone who pens 50,000 words in November, of any quality, “wins” and is entitled to buy themselves a winners’ t-shirt.

I’ve NaNoWriMo’ed before and I’m keen to try it again to see what’s different after a focused six months learning the craft of writing with the wonderful Kathryn Heyman at Faber Writing Academy.

How do you compare the Writing A Novel course with NanoWriMo?

Here are some similarities I see that make me excited to plunge in with the other 325,000 participants this November:

Permission to write

Not every new writer feels need for permission to write, but I did. I needed to know it was okay to take something I’ve done very well professionally (as a reporter, producer and professional communicator) and take it in a new direction.

I was terrified of trying to write fiction after years reporting and producing. No-one argues much about facts after a certain level of research. There’s no risk of personal exposure to leave a reporter vulnerable if they stick to what happened. Fiction exposes much more of its writer. And what if you find out you’re bad at it after getting up the courage to try?

Both NaNoWriMo and Writing A Novel give you permission to write badly so that eventually you can write well.  NaNoWriMo is emphatic that participants must write without editing for all of November. Editing is for December, maybe even February. The freedom of NaNoWriMo is quantity over quality. It’s freedom from judging oneself and silencing the inner critic. Perfect construction is not one of the metrics measuring greatness here.

The Writing A Novel course demands mental flexibility too, to try new ways to think about your writing. Different ways in to character, plot and action are explored and sometimes it is the writer’s own character that is examined in the process. It’s not all comfortable – but it is thrilling and liberating.

A writing community

When you register for NaNoWriMo you can choose to write alone, or be part of an encouraging writing community. In Australia many local libraries hold “write-ins” in November and local NaNoWriMo volunteers organise social catch ups, writing frenzies and online hangouts for writers to support each other as much or as little as you like.

The Sydney Faber Writing Academy course has delivered many unexpected benefits.  Chief among them is an amazing group of talented, encouraging fellow writers urging each other to believe in their own abilities and work towards the best possible execution of their own vision.

We twelve colleagues are very different writers, pursuing different styles and audiences but the sense of belonging, camaraderie and friendship has been an utter delight.

Now our course is complete we’re scheduling catch-ups, online and actual, to keep working together and to encourage each other to keep going. We’ve left the beautiful nest that is Faber Writing Academy but have the tools and a map to get where we want to go and some companions to travel with.

This may not happen for every group but is gold if you find it.

Entering the writing life

Both the Writing A Novel course and NaNoWriMo insist on a level of commitment by participants to think of themselves as writers. “Writers Write” as it says all over Pinterest Boards and Etsy products for writers, but who’s going to make you?

No-one, actually. As Kathryn told us on day one of our six month journey into our novels, you have to care about telling your story more than anyone else, or it simply won’t get written.

PHILIPPA BRANDONEven if you don’t crack the NaNoWriMo 1666-word-a-day goal to reach 50,000 words by November 30, you’ll be way in front of not having a go at all – and you’d have plenty to work with for your first draft.   As they say in NaNoWriMo land, the world needs your novel.

Philippa Brandon began her career in newspapers at 16, a world of early-opener pubs and old school journalism. She survived to pioneer digital news delivery for television and now works in the not-for-profit sector. You can find her on Twitter @pipbrandon.

Find more writing tips for NaNoWriMo here and more general writing tips from authors and Faber Writing Academy students here. If a month seems like too much commitment our Faber Writing Academy courses in Sydney and Melbourne could help – especially the one day Start to Write courses in Sydney or Melbourne. You can WIN a place to one of these Start to Write courses by signing up to the Faber Writing Academy mailing list here. 

Applications for our Writing A Novel courses in Melbourne and Sydney are also open, as our scholarship applications, with one place in each city available.

Faber Writing Academy - do you have a story to tell?

  • Sarah Menary

    I was anti nanowrimo before I read this piece but Pip Brandon has made me see that it’s actually an invitation to kill my inner editor for a period so I’m considering it. Thanks!

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