Both my bride and I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month, starting tomorrow. The goal: to write 50,000 words (each) of fiction in 30 days.
Writing a book has always been near the top of my Life List. Right along with sky diving and visiting Finland. And let's face it, as much crap as has been published (and a not insignificant amount that I've read - seriously, I've got over forty Conan novels on my shelves. The fact that I can admit this and still function in social situations is really pretty remarkable) I figure I've got as much to offer the literate world as most of those guys.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it's a block of time in which there's a discreet, tangible goal to achieve. 50,000 words. 30 days. 1666.67 words per day. See, when you break it down like that, it's perfectly reasonable.
From their FAQ:
How often do you do this?
Who will read my novel when I'm done?
Anyone you want. Last year, some people swapped novels afterwards and it was a hoot. But it's entirely up to you. No one will read your novel until you're ready for them to.
Do you edit or publish the finished products?
We'd love to be able to publish everyone's work, but our connections to the fiction-publishing world end at Kinkos. You are welcome, however, to put excerpts from your novel-in-progress up on our site.
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.
Can I write one word 50,000 times?
No. Well... No.
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.
If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?
There are three reasons.
1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.
2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.
3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.
There you have it. A month dedicated to pushing out as many words of a story as possible, and damn the quality. Sounds like my kind of challenge: If there's one thing I've learned between the Army and the corporate world, it's the art of bullshit.
I'll try and keep the 'groove updates on a regular schedule as well, just to give myself a break from the story writing. Who knows, I may even publish the whole thing here, for you to enjoy. I promise it won't be about Conan.