Okay, hands up. How many of you have heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, and it refers to an absolutely insane event where writers and wannabe writers from all over the world sacrifice the entire month of November in the pursuit of writing a lucid, cohesive novel of 50,000 words or more.
50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1,666.67 words per day. (Or 69.44 words per hour, or just 1.16 words per minute, which doesn't seem too bad, until you remember that you still have to eat and sleep, and maybe take care of your toddler as well.)
My kneejerk reaction to NaNoWriMo, when I first heard of it five years ago, was a resounding "WHY???" After all, I reasoned, anything I could write that was that long, written in such a short amount of time, would be absolute crap. Why rush myself?
However, the answer is starting to dawn on me. I've been writing for years. Even before I decided it was What I Wanted To Do With My Life, I was writing a story here, jotting down an idea there, and making up an unending stream of fictional scenarios in my head (most of which nobody else would ever want to hear, but at least they keep me entertained. Sometimes they even keep me from getting enough sleep, as they just keep growing in the middle of the night...) I've also been writing seriously for about six years, and working hard and consistently for the last year. I've got six stories that I'm currently trying to get published, one that is scheduled to be published, another half-dozen or so that just need a round (or two, or twenty) of critiquing and rewrites before I can try to get them published, and a children's book (technically story-length, for word count purposes) that also needs a bit of work before trying to get it published.
But in all this time I've never written, or even completed one chapter, of a novel. I feel that it's time to take the plunge, especially since I've been working hard these last few months to write very consistently. And what better way to take the plunge than by enforcing a crazy deadline? I've already signed up on the website, with the username ScienceFictionMommy. At the very least I'll be able to find out whether I will sink or swim (or swim with the literary fishes...)
My plan is to spend most of the month of October doing research and outlining, so I'll have a framework to build on come November. In fact, the title I mentioned in a previous post, Smooches by Proxy, seems to have the potential to turn into this novel. Maybe. If I can just develop enough of a plot for it, hee hee.
Interestingly enough, the conclusions I outlined above mirror something NaNoWriMo has in their FAQs, which I will quote below for your enjoyment. I'll blog more (probably a whole lot) about this venture come October and November, when you'll all get a firsthand account of how crazy this will make me. :)
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.