Written by Shelley Plett Wednesday, 12 September 2007 10:57
“…As grown-ups, we have come to place undo importance on this thing called competence.” —Chris Baty
Last October, I wrote about a November event called NaNoWriMo. This year I’m mentioning it again—a little earlier this time—to inform and prepare anyone out there who might be interested in signing up in the next month or two.
NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is the creation of Chris Baty, a writer guy from California, who in 1999 produced his little project in an attempt to be less bored and meet more girls.
He decided to write a complete 50,000-word novel in 30 days. He challenged a few (21) acquaintances to join him and a handful (six) of them succeeded that first November.
Every year since, NaNoWriMo has grown, leading to last year’s 79,813 participants, 12,948 “winners,” and just under 1 billion words written between them all.
The 2007 rules are the same. Write 50,000 words in 30 days, the equivalent of about a 175-page novel. For comparison, think “The Great Gatsby,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” That’s more likely to be a word-count comparison than a quality comparison, but hey, who’s to say?
To reach that goal, participants need to average 1,666.6666666666666666666666666667 words (feel free to round up or down) each and every day in November.
It’s not for everybody, but is it for you? Somebody once said, or maybe wrote, that everyone has a novel inside of them somewhere. Who hasn’t finished reading a book and thought, “That was horrible. Even I could write something better than that.” Or, “That was the best book I’ve ever read. I wish I could write like that.”
Maybe you can. Maybe not. Then why do it? Well, no reason really. But why not?
In that spirit, you need just two things. A deadline, provided for you, and an idea, which is wide open. You will lose sleep from this kamikaze method but it could be fun, definitely challenging, and will give you a big creative boost.
In my first try last year, I hit the goal with just under three minutes to spare. I ran my final word count and uploaded the file for verification just shy of midnight and haven’t opened the file since. I’m not sure I ever will. I don’t remember much about the characters or the plot or exactly what happened. What I do know is that it was all wrapped up by word 51,725.
If you have the slightest interest in giving this a try, send me an e-mail. There’s a huge online support community—international, national and regional.
Some regions have municipal liaisons who spearhead optional meetings (kick off events, writing frenzy nights and Thank-God-It’s-Over parties) and keep themselves available to answer questions. If there is enough interest in our general area, I will sign up as an ML and organize an event or two, or in the least, try to keep the momentum going.
Still not convinced to give it a shot? That’s OK—this is a great venture for the quasi committal type. On the average, only 17 percent make it to 50,000. This isn’t meant to be discouraging, just to illustrate that along with no fees or penalties, there’s no pressure. It’s simply writing for writing’s sake.
In addition to the regular NaNoWriMo challenge, there is a Young Writers Program for K-12 classroom groups and individual novelists ages 12 and under. Word count goals are set by each individual in YWP.
While there is no charge to participate, the organization will take donations, much of which funds their mission of building libraries in underprivileged areas. To date they have built 22 in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Are you up for it? Read the particulars and sign up at www.nanowrimo.com. When you do, let me know at email@example.com. And then soak in Baty’s distinctive brand of encouragement: “You should lower the bar from “best-seller” to “would not make someone vomit.”