Tuesday, December 30, 2014

LeNoWriCha: An Upgrade to NaNoWriMo

Introducing LeNoWriCha, the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge!

I created LeNo as an upgrade (or, if you prefer, an add-on) to NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. In fact, you can take the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge while participating in NaNoWriMo! What LeNo provides is not a true alternative to NaNo, but rather, a more meaningful way to measure and reward your progress during the NaNo month. Here's how it works:

As you write, you will view each day as a self-contained writing challenge, using your daily word count to rank your level of success on that day. There are four rankings of success: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. (Yes, I stole those from the HALO video game series. Because it's awesome.) These are the daily word counts for the LeNo difficulty rankings:

««LeNo Daily Rankings»»

Easy: 500 words
Normal: 1000 words
Heroic: 1500 words
Legendary: 2000 words

Your task for LeNo is to record your word count and your completion ranking every day. For example, "November 10: Completed on Heroic (1,623 words)," and "November 11: Completed on Normal (1,337 words)." If you don't manage to write at least 500 words on a particular day, mark that day as "Incomplete." For example, "November 12: Incomplete (343 words)."

For reference, NaNoWriMo requires you to write about 1650 words every day to reach the 50,000-word final goal. This falls between the "Heroic" and "Legendary" word counts in LeNo, since writing 1500 words a day for 30 days would yield 45,000 and writing 2000 words a day for 30 days would yield 60,000. Correspondingly, these are the final word counts for the LeNo difficulty rankings:

««LeNo Final Ranking»»

Easy: 15,000 words
Normal: 30,000 words
Heroic: 45,000 words
Legendary: 60,000 words

Since the NaNo goal of 50,000 words falls in the Heroic range, you would reach the NaNo goal by completing most days on Heroic and some days on Legendary. I think that appropriately reflects the difficulty of the NaNo challenge itself, which sets the bar pretty high. The trouble with NaNo isn't that it sets a bar so high, but rather, that it doesn't set any other bars. LeNo is my attempt to fix that.

The idea behind LeNo is to create a formal system that you can use to recognize (and celebrate!) your progress at a variety of word counts, not just the word count set by NaNoWriMo. To that end, I suggest that you choose a few small rewards for yourself to earn as you go. Obviously, the rewards shouldn’t be extravagant, but they should be enough to motivate you, because you will be earning those rewards by completing “streaks,” as described below.

««LeNo Reward Streaks»»

Easy Streak:
• Earn a reward for completing 6 consecutive days on “Easy” or above.
Normal Streak:
• Earn a reward for completing 5 consecutive days on “Normal” or above.
Heroic Streak:
• Earn a reward for completing 4 consecutive days on “Heroic” or above.
Legendary Streak:
• Earn a reward for completing 3 consecutive days on “Legendary.”

The point in having this rank-and-reward system is to provide an escape from the "success/failure" paradigm that seems to evolve from NaNo. Sure, the NaNo web site reminds you that, "Win or lose, you rock for even trying." However, NaNo has only two levels of success: "meeting your word count" and "not meeting your word count." If you're behind on your overall word count, even a productive day of writing can leave you feeling like you've won a battle but you're losing the war... because NaNo won't give you a tangible reward unless you reach that magical 50,000-word goal.

If you come up short of the NaNo goal, you won't get to upload your novel for official verification, you won't be added to their Winner's Page, and you won't receive a winner's certificate. Even if you manage to write 45,000 words (which is a great achievement, and puts you 90% of the way to the goal), you end up in the same "non-winner" category as a person who only wrote 15,000 words (30% of the goal). Everyone from 0 to 49,999 words gets the same consoling platitude: "You rock for even trying."

And that's not enough.

I want the brave, determined writer who ends the month of NaNo with 34,000 words to have something better to say about it than, "Well, I didn't meet the goal, so I didn't complete NaNo, and I'm not a NaNo winner, but I still wrote about 34,000 words, so I guess I... rock for even trying?" I want that same writer to be able to say, "I completed LeNo, and I did it on Normal difficulty, with a final count of 34,349 words."

In closing, here's the moral of my story: Writing 500 words in a day isn't as impressive as writing 1000, but it's still an accomplishment. Go treat it like one.

And then keep writing.

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