Earlier this week, my girlfriend passed along a link for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a 30-day program for people who have always thought about sitting down to write a novel, but never had the time or didn't want to go through with the effort. The goal of the program is simple: Write a 50,000-word work of fiction from scratch in 30 days.
I had never heard of this competition until a few days ago, but it sounded like a neat idea. I have some free time on my hands these days (I'm unemployed), so I think I'm going to try it and see what happens. The program starts on midnight THIS SUNDAY (Nov. 1) and lasts until midnight of Nov. 30, so for aspiring authors, writers, and creative thinkers alike, join me below the fold to get some more of the scoop.
Now, I know what you're thinking: How on earth is it possible to write an entire work of fiction in one single month? Well, there's really only one way: Write. Just write. You only have 30 days to do it, so your only approach is to write freely with minimal editing and tweaking. Don't spend any time changing around paragraphs or rewriting chapters. Just improvise.
I like what the About Page for NaNoWriMo says about this:
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
What makes the program such a tempting idea to me is that typically, I'm a very careful (and sometimes to my chagrin, a perfectionist) writer. On some of my diaries here, I spent three or more days constructing and editing them. Of course, some of that involved finding appropriate links to stories and dealing with DKos formatting issues, but in general, I'm usually very anal-retentive about writing. So I look at this program as something of a liberating exercise: Write, write, write some more, stop worrying about how it turns out, and just have fun with the process.
You'll also be happy to know that NaNoWriMo has been going on for about 10 years now, with increasing participation worldwide each time. Last year, they had 120,000+ writers who signed up. More than 20,000 finished. Just think about that for a second: In just a single month, 20,000+ people did what most of us on this planet never, ever get the chance to do. They did it because they were passionate about writing and had fun with their craft.
Let's talk a little bit about the logistics. You can sign up for NaNoWriMo here (with no entry fee!). Like I said, NaNoWriMo starts on midnight of this Sunday. You'll get the one-hour bump from the end of Daylight Savings Time, so that's a small bonus. At the end of the November, you upload the manuscript to the website, and they'll run a word count to verify that you've passed the 50,000 barrier. If we assume 250-words per page, that means you'll have to write 200 pages in 30 days. That's between 6 and 7 pages per day. With Thanksgiving coming up, that means you'll have to plan ahead to write a little more on days when you're not hanging out with family members and stuffing your face full of turkey and gravy. In a nutshell, it's an achievable goal. Difficult, yes. Intense, most definitely. But it is doable, provided that you cast off any inhibitions that makes writer's block so frustrating.
What can you write about? Well, pretty much anything! It has to be a work of fiction, and it has to be done by yourself. And, you have to start from scratch. Don't work on any half-finished manuscripts, because you'll probably end up caring too much about the characters or plot arcs to enjoy the creative rush from writing intensely and freely for 30 days. For my part, I still don't know what I'm going to write about! I have a couple ideas kicking around in my head. I'll just pick one and run with it.
So, what do you get for finishing? Well, why do people climb Mount Everest? Because it's there! There aren't any prizes for "Best Novel" or "Quickest Written Book." You win just by starting at 0 words and getting to 50,000. The real prize is the exhilarating feeling you get for setting an ambitious goal of writing a novel in a very small window of time and achieving it. And if you meet and beat that goal, you'll be able to at least tell yourself that you've written a novel. Might not be the best novel ever written, but it's still a novel.
Since I'll be undertaking the 50,000-word challenge, I don't expect I'll be on Daily Kos that much over the next month. I haven't been around much lately anyway, since I've been traveling to visit family members and also searching for a job. I'll still read Kos from time to time during November -- gotta slake my thirst for political commentary. But my participation will be pretty limited.
Oh, just to clarify a couple things: I don't work for NaNoWriMo or any affiliated organizations. I'm just a guy who heard about the program earlier in the week, was tickled by the idea, and wanted to spread the word. By the way, my advertising NaNoWriMo for you is not an attempt to stop people from reading or writing diaries on Daily Kos if they're interested in taking on the 50,000-word challenge. It's your 30 days, use them as you see fit! But, since all y'all on the Great Orange Satan are good writers with creative brains, I thought I'd advertise NaNoWriMo for you. I figured I could convince at least one other Kossack to try it....who knows, maybe there are already several of you who are participating, and I'm just slow on the uptake.
That's about all from me. For interested writers, you can read more about NaNoWriMo by consulting their FAQ page.
It's time to go write a book. Let's get crackin'!