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NaNoWriMo Starts Tomorrow

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I discovered National Novel Writing Month last year a week after it had already started, but I still managed to write a 50,000 word novel in November 2002.

The rules are pretty simple: Write a 50,000 word complete novel during the month of November. Don’t start until November 1, and finish by November 30.

That’s pretty much it. The idea isn’t generally to write something completely publishable (though I will probably re-work my effort from last year into a novella and publish it online), but to show writers that they can finish an entire novel, and they can do it quickly. You only have to write an average of less than 1700 words each day!

The truth is that most novels written during NaNoWriMo end up with a lot of gibberish in them as people struggle to meet their word counts. At one point I took the easy route of having one of my characters describe, in detail, a novel he’s considering writing. Of course, it’s a novel I’ve been considering writing. This is the primary reason why my 50,000 novel (already a bit short for a “real” novel) will end up as a novella by the time I’m done editing it.

But this year I’m starting from day one, so I won’t be playing catch-up the whole month. And I’m starting with some new characters I’ve just been thinking about in the last two weeks. I’ll first put fingers to keyboard tomorrow sometime, but I have a very rough mental outline of where I might want to go with the novel, and I’ve set a goal of 2000 words per day. That will give me a little cushion if I need it (I’ll be traveling for Thanksgiving this year, for example), and a larger novel if I don’t.

You can do it! Visit the official NaNoWriMo site and sign up – you’ve got nothing to lose, and you might find that you really enjoy writing and have something to say.

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  • san

    And what a great way to dive right into NaNoWriMo: by joining my new online writers’ group at bluntswords.sanfordmay.com

    Register early and register often, folks.

  • I’m in this year, too, though with reservations. Not about the writing – that’s the easy part. I think I’ve got a NaNoWriMo jinx! In ’01 I had elbow surgery and my laptop imploded just after starting the novel. In ’02 I lost a long-term temp job just as Nano started. Third time’s a charm? I guess we’ll see in the next few days…

  • Yesterday one of our regular radio show listeners called in and said he is taking the plunge on this.

    As I said in the other thread about this, it’s very cool and I applaud everybody who gets into this. Good luck everybody and please share the details of your individual experiences 😉

  • Eric Olsen

    TD, where and what is your radio show again? I haven’t paid appropriate attention it would seem.

  • Hi Eric – It’s cool that you are interested, thank you. A few details have surfaced here and in some of my comments. There are links to my bio in that article which talk about the history behind the Script School radio show, what time, where, etc.

    BTW, it would be great to get you on as a guest on the show someday in the future? Next week’s show (Nov 7, #166) we are focusing on online music services. If you happen to be around and available at some time on Friday between 2-4pm PST when it runs live then drop me an email or phone call at the office and let me know and we’d love to have you on for a segment or two 😉

    You seem to have a good music background and many interesting, useful things to say about the music biz and it wouldn’t be necessary to talk about the technology side of things, just the music/RIAA angle. You could also freely plug blogcritics while you were on, so perhaps some extra exposure for this site and its writers 😉

    As you can probably surmise, I am very proud of the show (but I’m also one of the harshest critics of it lol) and we have generated nearly 3GB of audio archives and conducted hundreds of audio interviews spanning a wide variety of primarily internet-related topics which have been a great learning experience for both listeners and myself.

    (URL edited by Admin)

  • damn, I used VB/UBB code on that URL lol … my brain is in messageboard mode today, I guess

  • It’s okay now, TDavid, I fixed the link.

  • Hey thanks mon 🙂

  • What’s the idea? To show that one can produce the quantity of 2000 words per day? That’s easy: write 350 times, ” I won’t throw tomatoes on the teacher anymore”.
    “I will always remember that literature is about quality, not quantity, stemming from the soul, not from the calculator.” – 105 times

    Please don’t suggest I should write, “Sorry for being dead serious”
    400 times…

  • Corinna, that’s a very good question. As a published author (at least I think you are, right?) you probably wouldn’t see any help with NaNoWriMo. Even if you’re not a published author, with that attitude I can guarantee you it won’t help you.

    For many of the rest of us, it’s an attempt to provide discipline. If we’re successful, we now know that we are capable of putting a complete 50,000 word story together from beginning to end and having it all hang together. We know that we’re capable of writing every single day to reach a deadline, to set goals and reach them, and on and on.

    I had written a number of short stories before starting NaNoWriMo last year, and I figured a novel was a whole different animal, so I never even tried. After NaNoWriMo, I realize that is is different, but not as scary as I had thought.

    I spelled out most of the goals in the above article, and plenty more are available at the NaNoWriMo website.

  • I am a published writer, Phillip. You’ve never visited my web site, not yet?!
    I’m astounded.
    Really, I’ve gone to their site and I’ve read your post with great attention.

    Still, because I am a writer, I know that you can with less effort shake off your fears by having a friend hug you while you tremble terribly…

    I write very slow, edit and re-edit, asleep and awake. Words count, one by one, so there is no need to count them.

    Better write an excellent book thirty years (as was the case with my fourth book), than rush. Words cannot be rushed, they come at their pace. Don’t be afraid of your fears, they are only paper fears.

    It does not mean that one cannot write a book in a very short period. It does happen but then not because one has set a marked goal of 2000 words a day. Only because the story has kept you awake.

    For me literature and writing it are sacred ground. I feel that this venture is belittling my holly of holliest, turning writing into a technique, a most mundane one, profane.

    I think it is no less so when it comes to students: again, because the emphasis is on quantity, not on content.
    It embraces the same superficiality they’ve already internalized from TV.

    Literature is suggestive, it leaves many empty lines between each word, where your imagination as a reader comes to wet it’s thirst.

    If you have an important story to tell the world, if you cannot sleep well at night if you do not write it down, then you’ll write it.

    But will you write it that intensly when you come to it with the acquired habits of a counter. Will you be able to shed them off and listen to the story alone?

    If so and if this is what you need – what can I say. Only you know what’s best for you.
    B’hatzlaha (Hebre for: With Success).

  • There’s nothing about this becoming a technique. This just serves as a motivator. Some people have it in them and don’t know how to get it out, and need something to spur it on. And sure, there’ll be a lot of hacks giving it a shot. What’s the harm in that? If they write an awful story, it’s just an awful story – few will ever read it, and nothing significant will come of it. But maybe there’s a few budding writers out there who needed the kick in the butt that this “competition” provides and what they produce will, eventually after editing, rewriting, etc., be a significant piece of work. Maybe I’m overly positive for once – I can’t see how urging people to write can possibly be a bad thing. Everyone will learn something when they’re through – many may simply learn that they can’t write. Some will not. I’m hopeful because of the latter and not the former. There’s no reason not to be.

  • A motivator to what?
    A non-invasive motivator is when a parent and/or a teacher reads a story, a few lines, or a full notebook you’ve written and encourages you with enthusiasm, with no criticism whatsoever.

    This was my father’s and my teachers’ later on, attitude.

    In school in Israel, at age thirteen and with no Hebrew, we were given each day some ten or twenty new words (picked from a story she’s been reading us patiently) and invited to bring next day a story made up of those words.

    The encouragment, enthusiasm and loving support she expressed when listening to us read them the following day, built our self-confidence.

    We are living in The Age of Instant Gratification, which I abhore, as it enables redundency and alienation from our creative forces. Those cannot ever be tamed into a calculated schedule. Let them loose and they’ll flourish and enrich, spiritually, both writer and reader. I sit at the computer and write until I feel suddenly that I’m exhausted.

    I write sitting or standing in buses, in lines, in the middle of the street. There is always a pen and a small notebook in my handbag, at my bedside – but I might be writing also on the back of a ticket or a scrap of paper.

    I do not care for the number of words, on the contrary, I always fear there are too many of them. As a writer, and as a discerning reader, I care for the insightful truth, for the rare moments of inspired revelation. Will you encounter them when you’re intent on running, and in the wrong direction?

  • Dew

    But Corinna that only works for you. There are some people who do not have the necessary support behind them and may sign up just for a fluke and actually see the budding writer inside. I think you are paying more attention to the word count than the effect of reaching the word count.

    50000 words isn’t really the goal. Disciplining yourself enough to sit and write whatever comes out, is. I know personally I find myself writing whatever whenever but all I end up being left with is a world of pretty damn good concepts. But they remain ideas if I do not make the effort to form them into a full story.

  • Dew, If the goal is Support, what support can one gain for a program that counts words and counts down time?

    If the goal is incentive, a push to sit down and write – I beg to differ: Ours is not a broken car’s engine in need to be pushed a bit to get started.

    By Support I mean the building of self-confidence.

    It won’t hurt though to have in adulthood an intelligent and compassionate friend.

    Is such a friend a must in order for a writer to gain self-confidence?

    Please remember Kafka was that much lacking in it that he asked his close friend, Max Brod, to destroy his unpublished manuscripts after his death, a will that, luckily, Brod disobeyed.

    At the end of the day, or the thirty days spelled out in that program – it’s only you and the pages.

    I see writing, creativity, as a great responsibility, a commitment. That we shoulder it individually is a great burden; on the other hand, look what it does to us: it gives voice to our unique existence, and in the most selfless form of expression.

    Up to a point, it even kept Kafka alive.

  • Dew

    I completely agree with the voice it gives us, but some dont know they have the voice. Isn’t any form of writing a good one?

    I think you are taking the word count far too literally. Actually you are taking the entire project too literally. It only serves as a means to an end. And that end is defined by the individual participant.

    It seems you are not in agreement with the project, that is fine. But there are some who can find use in having a deadline in front of them.

  • Any form of writing is a good one for it’s specific aim: it’s good for people to express themselves verbally, in writing, be it a diary or one’s life story, it eases the burden of life, of existential loneliness.

    What I want to impress is that from there to literature lays a long and totally different path, which points to the opposite direction.

    Any skills training might be helpful, as long as we remember that, as Eddison has put it, genius/creativity is indeed 99% perspiration, yet the main ingredient is the one percent inspiration.

    This program, as the whole industry of “packeged books” claims it can do without it.

    I do not accept a culture which embraces such norms. They spread and stiffle both individum and society.

  • I must admit that I found this site by mistake but this is a great site!!! I wish more people will invest their time to build sites like this one. Thank you

  • i would not return to the page with the topic you read before,butiwill probably return to the topic i posted a comment to. More comments means more visits and it keeps the blog dynamic. After all blogs are not for authors only

  • I am delighted that you have chosen to respond at last to one of the people posting comments on your blog. While the subject of the sex/slave trade is indeed horrendous, I am sure I am not alone in wishing that you would engage and debate with those of us posing hard and difficult questions about the impending EU Constitutioncrisis that is likely to result from a rejection by French and Dutch voters. Surely this is a paramount subject for you – Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication – to be addressing. It wont go away, you know.

  • I havent gotten much done lately. Ive basically been doing nothing. Its not important. Ive just been sitting around not getting anything done. Pretty much nothing seems worth doing. Eh.

  • Yay – a chance for me to express my feelings on NaNoWriMo-

    I never had ‘writing a book’ on my personal horizon, not any time soon. I’d rather concentrate on articles and essays. That NaNo thing though, it seemed interesting. A few people from my writer’s group were going to do it, and they all seemed so excited, very pumped for this thing. So last week I find myself at the site, and damn if it didn’t look fun. Writing a novel never really seemed like fun, not when I read what many author’s have gone through.

    So, when I read what NaNoWriMo is really supposed to be about, I thought, “why not”.
    Not for a moment do I consider this to be detrimental or belittling to the world of literature. The idea of freeing yourself to write something that dosn’t have to be ‘good’, is simply a tool. This is an exercise in ‘just doing it’.
    To achieve success, the basic, most bottom line, absolute never changing rule is: PRACTICE. Whether you are a corporate tycoon, a point guard, a chemist, a dancer, writer, actor, martial artist, or Maytag repair man. You HAVE to do it, over and over again. And then some more. And every day.
    NaNoWriMo is a fun way to do just that.