As if it were that simple, right? Just write a novel, or bake a cake, or rake the leaves. It takes some people years, even a lifetime, to write a novel. Plus, they would have to be “real” writers, wouldn’t they? In the interest of shattering that myth, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was born in 1999. The challenge the global initiative poses is that anyone can write a novel in 30 days, by simply committing to paper 1667 words a day or 50,000 words over the duration. Those 30 days happen to be the month of November. Right now.
Who would ever do such a thing? It’s complete madness. What about going to work, eating, socializing, or a little 4-day weekend called Thanksgiving? Call them nuts, naïve, irresponsible or any adjective you wish, but there are over 280,000 would-be novelists currently pounding away at their keyboards. And I am one of them.
Some important facts. I have never written a novel. I have not written fiction since grade school. I can take procrastination to a high art when I know I should be writing. I have an aversion to group challenges. I don’t like to have deadlines nagging at me; this 30-day thing is torturous.
Here I am, though, 7 days in and tracking nicely to the some 11,700 words I should have completed by now. I have the vague outline of a plot and some characters who have plans of their own. My writing process has gone something like this: day one, 1700 words; day two, no words; day three, 3500 words; day 4 no words; day 5, 2200 words. You get the picture. It’s fits and starts and nagging pressure and a tiny bit of angst as I sit down each day and ask myself, what happens next?
The beauty of this kind of writing is that what happens next doesn’t really matter. This is an effort to get words on the page in service of a story. The sentences are sometimes terribly awkward, but there’s no time to go back and polish them. One. Must. Keep. Writing. So, yes, there’s madness to it, but it’s incredibly liberating as well. I don’t need to be too concerned about how chapters flow or exactly what the characters say or do. There will be time after November to whip the thing into readable shape. For now, it feels a lot more like I’m reading a story and that I can only find out what happens next if I sit down and let the words pour out onto the page.
It makes me seriously consider what else I could do if I can actually write a novel in 30 days. Some other challenges suddenly don’t seem so daunting. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll check back in at the end of the month to let you all know the final word tally. Right now I’ve got to get back to writing my novel.
Leah and Carolyn
Writing Exercise: Check out NaNoWriMo.org. It’s an amazing site full of writer’s resources. It just may inspire you to write your own novel this month. Whether you arrive at November 30 with 50,000 words in the vault isn’t really the point; any number will do if it’s a springboard for you to get your story told.