November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for… um, short. The aim of the game is to devote one month of your year to getting down 50,000 words, no matter what. It usually involves lots of coffee, pressing the pause button on your social life and typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” 523 times to get you past the finish line, but it can be done. There are no prizes – other than 50,000 words of a first draft and a smug, self-satisfied feeling – but it’s worthwhile: some published novels, including Sara Gruen’s bestselling Water for Elephants, started life as a NaNoWriMo work.
It also gives you an excuse to disappear upstairs for hours on end, or to drive your car to an isolated (but safe!) spot and sit in the passenger seat with your laptop balanced on your knees. (As John Walsh, author of The Ship of Rome, did.) And most importantly, it’s fun. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of other people are doing it too, and you can stick fancy badges on your blog to advertise your solidarity.
I signed up once before, in November 2007, but only got as far as putting a badge on my Facebook page and reading NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem: A High Velocity, Low-Stress Way to Write a Novel in 30 Days. But things are different now: I’m at home all day and I have a second novel to finish. Fifty thousand words would pretty much get me to the end of the first draft. My plan is spend all November writing furiously, and then December and January trying to turn it into something that isn’t completely crap.
Some writerly types don’t like NaNoWriMo because, they argue, they write every day of the year. (Well, how nice for you. And to steal and slightly alter a line from Friends as I am prone to do, is your wallet also too small for your fifties and your diamond shoes too tight?) NaNoWriMo isn’t about getting people to write as much as it is about getting people to write freely. Instead of tinkering away at the Work in Progress at a rate of a few hundred words a day or even a week, open your laptop and go for it.
Forget about editing, forget about scene lists, forget about how long your main character’s been pregnant for, and just write.
Write, write, write, sleep and write, and don’t stop until you have a word count of 50,000 to show for it.
Who’s with me?
You can find out everything you need to know – and register as a participant – on NaNoWriMo’s official site.
UPDATE: Forgot to say that I’m registered on NaNoWriMo.org as cathryanhoward if you’d like to ‘buddy’ me. Or don’t. You know. Whatever.