I’ve been remiss in my blogging of recent and this just seemed a perfect way to get back into the thick of things. NaNoWriMo is that charming acronym for National Novel Writers Month which happens every November. Basically: your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to get 50,000 relatively cohesive words written in 30 days. Write a novel. Simple, right?
What could go wrong? It’s on the honor system – no one is going to do a spot check if you’re word count was correct. The only prize you’ll get is the satisfaction of knowing November wasn’t wasted on frenzied shopping or massively overeating. Well, you can receive your official mug sticker (not the mug, just a sticker to put on a mug.) Laugh if you must, but to be honest, it really is an amazing event. Even a person with two books in print can (and I will!) glean substantial lessons from participating. Did I mention it’s free? Yes. You don’t even have to pay for this (though donations to the parent organization would be appreciated.)
Of course, as good things are wont to do, NaNoWriMo has attracted its own, very own, brought to you at absolutely no expense, detractors. I’m fairly certain the Salon has trotted out its standardized poo-pooing of the event with its equally standardized nose-in-the-air, you-aren’t-important-enough-for-us-to-acknowledge-you-as-a-writer attitude. My suggestion: print out their article, laugh at it, wad it up, and drop it in the recycle bin. Then break out a good pen, available paper, and warm up the coffee/tea/cocoa.
Why should you do NaNoWriMo – especially now that I’m telling you on opening day and you should have around 1600 words by midnight, which puts you a little behind? Because even if you write 25 words, outline a story, or write one scene, you will have won. I’m not that optimistic so for me to say such a thing – I have to really mean it.
NaNoWriMo will do several things for you, which frankly I constantly need to relearn. First, it will teach you the most valuable lesson: if you put your mind and heart into something, you can get it done. Think that’s too clichéd? Consider that I know of people who are still without power and stable housing on the East Coast who are going to participate. If they can do it, so can you. You have to want to – that’s all. Next, you will learn how to make time for things that are important to you. You’ll learn what does and what doesn’t work. You’ll learn a great deal about your own likes and dislikes. And you’ll learn what experts call “your voice.” How much more could one want?
Now, when you get to November 30th with your 50,000 (or whatever number) words, do you have a novel? Yes and No. You are well on your way to a novel, which these days tend to be closer to 70,000 -100,000 words. Is it something you can send off to a publisher immediately? No. No way. And let me say that this is fine. All novels are written, edited, re-written, re-organized, edited again, agonized over, re-written, tossed in the garbage, retrieved from the garbage, and re-written one more time. That’s just the process. But if you don’t get that initial first draft done, there’s no novel.
Today, and for the rest of this month, and some of you will discover this for the rest of your lives – You Are A Writer. So go write.
Check out the NaNoWriMo page: http://www.nanowrimo.com
If you need a little encouragement and humor, check my friend Scott Perkins’ blog, especially http://networkedblogs.com/DAVha
I’m off to write. I have a dime novel to complete. And when I’m old, gray, and laughing at Stephen King’s measly success compared to mine, I will likely still participate in National Novel Writers Month.