Thursday, October 06, 2005

50K in 30 days?

No, don't look at me. I'm not one of those nutty optimists who'll be signing up this month to write an entire novel in 30 days. I just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that November will be here soon, and that means . . .


Yes, November is National Novel Writing Month, and on the first day of that month writers everywhere will begin feverishly scribbling their own versions of, "It was a dark and stormy night . . . ."

Registered participants who meet the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel by midnight on November 30 will be declared winners. Last year, there were nearly 6,000 winners out of 42,000 participants, representing a good, healthy jump from the 2003 stats of 3,500 winners and 25,500 participants. This year they're expecting 60,000 participants.

Which just goes to show there are an awful lot of nutty people in the world.

Here are some of my favorite questions from the informative and entertaining (and very, very long) FAQ page:

Why are you doing this? What do you get out of it?

NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.

Part of the reason we organize NaNoWriMo is just to get a book written. We love the fringe benefits accrued to novelists. For one month out of the year, we can stew and storm, and make a huge mess of our apartments and drink lots of coffee at odd hours. And we can do all of these things loudly, in front of people. As satisfying as it is to reach deep within yourself and pull out an unexpectedly passable work of art, it is equally (if not more) satisfying to be able to dramatize the process at social gatherings.

But that artsy drama window is woefully short. The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self. We like that.

I have a lot to do in November. Can I start in October and end early?

No. One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is the way it spreads the agony of creation throughout a large community of co-sufferers. For the pain to be properly distributed (and thereby diminished), all participants must be working on the same deadline.

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on November 1?


This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You'll simply care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you'll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Well, what do you think? Are you tempted?

Here's one last excerpt from the FAQ page:

Can anyone participate in NaNoWriMo?

No. People who take their writing (and themselves) very seriously should probably go elsewhere. Everyone else, though, is warmly welcomed.

Ah. My kind of people.


Kristin said...

I did the NaNoWriMo three years ago, and it resulted in me completing my first novel. I didn't make the 50,000 words in a month, but I ended up with about 35,000. Two-and-a-half years later, I finished my first, horribly flawed book.

But, it inspired me to write more. If I ever get published, I will give NaNo its due and lay my success at their door. It really spurred me to think differently about writing. It freed up my mind to write utter crap without rewriting a word of it until much, much later. And some of what I thought was crap turned out to be pretty good.

I want to try it again this year, but since I am in the midst of a much better second novel, I am not sure if I am willing to give up my precious writing time to a new project.

But I just might...

J. Mark Bertrand said...

Come on, Brenda! If the very classy and learned J. Mark Bertrand is doing it -- and he is -- then why not join the bandwagon? Think of all the NaNoWriMo traffic you could pull by blogging about it!

Julana said...


I saw Lindaruth (Lindaruth's spot) and Lori (Ups and Downs) are doing this, along with some folks at Faith and Fiction (where Mark writes).
What cracked me up was that the instigator of this plot authored a book titled "No Plot? No Problem."

Maybe it's for the kind of people who jog, but don't marathon. They place process over product. Which has its merits.

BTW, I read about tea on your web site. In my dreams, I would have afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey every day.

David Bridger said...

Brenda, look what you've gone and done. I followed your link and... signed up! Good grief. How scary is this?

Brenda Coulter said...

Real scary, David. ;-) But I have a feeling you'll end up having the time of your life.

I know all about manic writing--I've been doing it for the past couple of months. And since I've just finished a manuscript, I really must spend the next 4-6 weeks catching up on other projects before I leap into a new story. But Mark, why do you assume that I must participate in something in order to blog about it? I'll have plenty to say next month, poking fun at all the neurotic novelists out there. I can hardly wait.

Do it, Kristin. You know you want to....

Julana, thanks for visiting my website. Wish we could have tea together.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to do it. Last year I barely did 3,000, but it was a really crazy time for me. This year I plan to rope many of my writing friends into torturing themselves with me. Plus I bought the book (No Plot, No Problem) and it actually felt like it will help immensely to get me off my butt and writing! I'm hoping it will get me back into a regular writing routine (I got off track when my laptop pooped out) I'll look forward to seeing your mocking of us crazies. :)

Lori said...

I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year. I will say it was a great kick in the pants! One of the most rewarding things for me was my family & friends cheering me on. I write all the time, but this was definately a marathon, from my perspective. Balancing work, family & writing was also a challenge, but worked out fine.

Anyway, I'm really one of those "I work better with a deadline" kind of people, so this was right up my alley.

As I mention on Julana's site, I also had my 9th & 10th grade Language Arts kids participate, with a 5000 word goal. Everyone made the goal, much to their surprise & delight, & got a free dinner with my hubby & I. (It also made the 500 word papers due later in the year seem pretty darn easy!)

pacatrue said...

Why can't this be scheduled for June? If it was in June, I would love to do it, but, no, they put it right in the middle of my semester. I curses them.

I do think a lot of people are going to have a very busy T-giving.

pacatrue said...

Did I mention molekskine?

Brenda Coulter said...

Lydia and Lori, good for you! But I have a question. After you've signed up, how do you keep yourselves from thinking about your novels until November 1st? Aren't you tempted to jump the gun?

Pacatrue, I've wondered about the Thanksgiving thing, too. Lots of people are cooking and Christmas shopping at the end of November.

Lori said...

Well, their website says, "Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death."

Tonight, for instance, I kind of outlined my 3 main characters (very roughly). Yesterday I came up with an idea of what story I would like to write so I jotted down a couple of notes to remind myself of what direction to head in. Of course, I may toss it all before November! Last year I didn't discover NaNo until 11/5 so I just jumped in cold.

bibliobibuli said...

Nice to have found your blog thanks to the Grumpy old Bookman. Across the world in Malaysia we're joining in the Nanoinsanity too. 40 participants (and ten winners) last year, can we double it this? Wish you all the best with your one month novel. I have no idea what i'm writing but I'll definitely be jumping in there!

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks for popping over to my blog, Bibliobibuli. Happy writing!

James Woods said...

This will be my fourth year to participate in NaNoWriMo. I am the Municipal Liaison for my home town because I believe strongly in the program.