During the month of November, should you find yourself in a coffee shop, restaurant, internet cafe, or really anywhere with electricity and WiFi, you may very well spot a clump of people furiously tapping away on laptops. If you look closely you are very likely to see a sign like this one.
This means you’ve stumbled on a group of NaNoWriMo writers.
1999 marked the beginning of NaNoWriMo. It all started with twenty-one people in San Francisco who wanted to write novels. It has grown to these proportions as reported via this NaNoWriMo tweet from Twitter:
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writer’s Month, has become an international event. Its quite simple really… if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, all you need do is head to the NaNoWriMo website and sign up. This makes you a participant. The next step is to write a 50,000 word novel before midnight on November 30th. If you succeed, you become a NaNoWriMo winner.
I first learned about NaNoWriMo from my sister-in-law Nienke, but I’ve never quite managed to make the time. Over the last year I’ve taken to blogging, and have rediscovered how important writing actually is to me. Since the frequency of my blog posts has been on the rise, and some of the longest have sit the 3,000 word range, it occurred to me that maybe my writing muscles were up to facing the NaNoWriMo challenge.
One of my problems is my attachment to my blogs. It is so easy to get sucked into email, or browsing, or even worse, writing a blog post. I just had to take the time to whip up my Remembrance Day post… except it ended up taking the better part of the daylight hours.
An issue that has been large in my life has been the fight to save a local natural space from being “surplussed” and developed.
Having written letters to the local papers and politicians as well as blogging about it, amazingly Victoria Glen Park was actually saved, I should at the very least be trumpeting the good news, but I’ve a pretty good idea how much time that will take.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo for me.
This is the birthday present I’m giving myself.
[Note: This is NOT a hint…
Too busy with NaNoWriMo to have time left for frivolities like birthdays.]
because time is of the essence for NaNoWriMo
The NaNoWriMo deal is that your 50,000 words must be written within in the 30 days of November. Prior preparation is allowed. It is perfectly acceptable to do things like character studies and outlining in advance, which would of course would be the clever way to do it. That wasn’t possible for me because of my late sign up, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.
I was surprised to discover that NaNoWriMo does not simply involve locking oneself away from the world and writing the month away. There is a whole social aspect I knew nothing about. When you find your region you discover that there is an ML, or “Municipal Liaison”, who is the unpaid volunteer who serves as our fearless leader. The ML organizes and supervises the writers, the forums, and tries to keep everyone focused and motivated.
The ML organizes get togethers, mostly for Write-Ins but also there was a “getting to know you” party before NaNoWriMo began, and there is going to be a “half-way” party this week–with no writing allowed! My guess is that there will also be an “after” party in the fullness of time. The amazing thing is that the ML is also a participant, sacrificing writing time to do all of this great stuff for the other writers. Write-Ins are a way for local NaNoWriMo’s to gather together to write. Although at first blush it seems like an odd notion… a group of writers getting together in order to ignore one another while writing in the same geographic space, in fact it’s actually quite a good idea. So far I’ve only been to two, but I was amazed at how productive I was at both. Perhaps its that a whole roomful of writers are so caught up in their own stories, the room is a filled with writing energy.
I attended the very first Write-In at Whole Lot-a Gelata, just to see what it was like. Even though I didn’t have my outline written down, I had enough bits floating around in my head that I could do a few opening scene/character sketches. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the words flowed sitting in a room with a bunch of total strangers, all of whom were typing away in their own little worlds.
The NaNoWriMo web site is pretty extensive, with plenty of forums (and if the topic you want isn’t there you can jump in and create it. NaNoWriMo provides videos, and blogs, and chat rooms and pep talks… it is really rather amazing. The only thing about NaNoWriMo that I find fault with is that they have designated the people who succeed in writing 50,000 words “winners”. My problem with this is that the flip side would be that those who do not finish would be “losers”.
I would think that the participants themselves would know what they’ve gotten out of NaNoWriMo. If you’ve finished with the prescribed 50,000 words, but feel it is unreadable or un-editable, being told you are a winner will not change the fact that your experience was not successful. By the same token, if you’ve only managed 25,000 words by the end, if you’ve learned something important, like how to outline, or that it is possible to write as many a s 25,000 words in the space of a month, you may well feel like a “winner” until told otherwise. I find it a little bit sad that this distinction is drawn, because NaNoWriMo can be a great experience for different people in many different ways. Writers of all people ought to know that creativity doesn’t fit in a box marked “one size fits all”.
From flitting about in the various forums, I’ve discovered a few interesting websites put up by other NaNoWriMo participants. Since it is so tempting to wander through forums and check out websites, I’m trying to limit myself. I thought I’d just share these two blogs which I found a lot of fun. I’ve only read bits of them, but they’re intriguing enough that I’ve book marked these so that I can pop round and read them at my leisure after NaNoWriMo is done.
“Why do you keep giving him such silly names,” Lauretta asked, raising one eyebrow at me.
“Why do you?” I countered.
I couldn’t say much to that, so I went with the standard, “I’m Evil; I can do whatever I want.”
From the sidebar:
“First drafts are often bad. Repeat after me: Bad bad bad. Embrace the bad.”
NaNoWriMo has been great for me. I finally got the outline done, and now I’m ahead of the game, beyond the half way word count, so I can make this blog post. My novel may yet undergo great alterations between now and the end, and I have a suspicion that it will take rather more than 50,000 to finish, since I’m not as far along the outline as I probably should be. But that’s O.K. I can always edit it into good order in December.
What NaNoWriMo has done is provide me with a deadline, and help me remember how to find a focus. The best thing that NaNoWriMo has done for me is provide impetus. It’s helped me carve out a place in my life where I can get back into the writing I love. It’s providing support and reminding me of how great it is to have other writers to consort with. And the writing itself is going just fine.
Thank you NaNoWriMo.
note: no time to proof this… sleep is a bigger priority just now. Please comment or email me about typos & I’ll fix them later 🙂