Monday, November 2, 2009


A few years ago, I discovered an online literary phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month, uniquely abbreviated NaNoWriMo. Each November, people all over the country (all over the world, really) sit down to write a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, over the course of 30 days. This probably sounds impossible to the average person, and it's definitely not easy, yet tens of thousands of people line up to try. Many of them succeed.

I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I always thought it sounded like a fun adventure. Since I'm a novelist, though, it never seemed like something I should try to get in on. It would almost be unfair, because I know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I do it regularly, though all those words never go into one single novel.

Yes, there's the rub. Can I write a whole novel in a month? It takes me much longer than that to draft anything, let alone something good. NaNoWriMo's goal isn't to make anything good. They're out to get words down on paper, fast and frantic, and see what emerges. This inspires me. I'm giving it a try. One blank document. Thirty days. No plotting, prodding, structuring. No use of "delete." Two days into the task, I know I have my work cut out for me. But maybe there's something to this frenzied style, some way of cutting to the heart of things.

The best part is, I'm not doing it alone. One challenge of writing is that it's simultaneously about solitude and communication, being alone with your thoughts and connecting your ideas with others. After all, why tell a story if there's no one around to hear it?

I suspect most people get into NaNoWriMo for the fun and festivity of it. Or maybe to indulge secret longings that don't get played out in their everyday lives. So they can stand up in triumph, having written a novel. One less dream left un-pursued. For me, it's more about the chance to write in concert with others, and to approach my work from a new angle. It's already making me more excited to get started in the morning.

Bring it on, NaNoWriMo! 29 days and counting...

1 comment:

sally said...

I think it's awesome that you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year! Can't wait to hear how it all turns out.

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