It's September 9th today and the nights have been starting to get cold recently. The daylight hours are shrinking, staying dark until 6 a.m. and the sun setting before 8'oclock at night now. When the air starts smelling crisp and the leaves begin to turn, men and women brave of heart and weak of mind begin to think of NaNoWriMo.
There are only 52 days left before you set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and begin the slow ascent towards the goal of writing 50,000 words within the month of November. There's the thrill of the first day that you easily surpass your daily word requirement, the agony of the days where you struggle to make the bare minimum needed to ensure you'll scrape in under the wire, and of course the greatest feeling of them all — passing the finishing line as your word count clicks over the magic threshold to equal 50,001.
Labour Day weekend has been and gone, so the "Three Day Novel" writing contest has passed you by yet again. The only literary competition left which has nothing to do with merit, or lack there of, is the National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo.
Let's face it – what else are you going to do in November? Talk about a depressing month; it's not winter yet so it doesn't have the redeeming qualities of snow to alleviate its greyness. It's not fall anymore so the trees are just naked sticks shivering in the dank wetness with no colours to brighten your day.
Sure, you can go for walks in the freezing rain and look at the Christmas displays the stores put up when Halloween's over. But why bother when someone has saved you the effort of figuring out how to stave off Seasonal Depression by driving yourself crazy with an attempt at achieving a goal that's difficult but not impossible.
Perhaps NaNoWriMo is a little too much like the old Chinese curse of "May you live in interesting times" for some of you in terms of the demands it will make – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. But I would think it's a fair trade off for avoiding depression. Instead of being like all the other grey spectres around you, bummed out by the weather and the very Novemberness of it all, you'll be frazzled, anxious, inspired, and ecstatic.
You ever see the movie Sean Of The Dead? It has these wonderful opening shots of people walking around like zombies going about their daily routines; cashiers at a supermarket scanning items and putting them in bags, people walking down a street in headphones all listening to the same music shuffling and jerking. All before anybody becomes a zombie; in fact some of them seem to have a little more purpose after they become undead – a focus is a marvellous thing.
That will be the difference between you and the November zombies that surround you. You'll have a focus. Something that will give you a purpose outside of your normal existence, something that will break you out of any rut that you may have fallen into with or without knowing it.
It might drive you crazy at times, but at least you'll be alive. Every morning you'll wake up and have a task at hand that matters to you. And it's a task you initiated, rather than an order from someone else. The fact that it is something creative is almost a bonus.
But what a bonus; how often in your everyday life to do you get to express yourself creatively? When was the last time you took on a project of this magnitude that would force you to stir your creative juices on a regular basis? I know that's probably where a lot of your anxiety is coming from, but don't worry about it, it's part of the process.
In fact, if you want to deal with that anxiety, the best thing to do is to start planning your assault on the 50,000-word plateau in advance. Start thinking about your story now. Who are the characters? What they are going to be doing? How they will behave? Where they will be? Who they will be with? And why did these events happen to them?
Oh, and you'd better come up with a plot as well. They usually help to give your characters a sense of direction, a focus for all that who, what, where, how, and why stuff that I started to mention in the previous paragraph. If you are so inclined you can make up big charts that show how each character is going to interact with other characters and hang them on the walls around where you will be working. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment before you even get started.
But if you use them for the actual project, think of them as guidelines not rules. The last thing you want to do is have something that's going to stifle your creative juices. If you get an idea from something you've just written don't ignore it because it's not on your list, go with it and see where it takes you and it will make for much more interesting writing and maybe even reading.
The real reason for doing any planning is to reassure yourself that you're not in over your head. Once you lay stuff out like that on paper or in chart form you'll realize how few 50,000 words actually are. Once you understand that, you'll be amazed how what at first seemed insurmountable begins to look eminently doable.
The National Novel Writing Month is a wonderful way to spend November, and — who knows — it may even be the beginning of that great novel you always wanted to write. Here's your opportunity.
If you want to make a stab at it then you can go on over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. They don't usually open for registration until October, so you still have time.