Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

In case you didn't know, November is National Novel Writing Month. A challenge. Call it a dare if you like, plenty do. This is the month when tens of thousands of ordinarily sane writers around the world challenge themselves or one another to a ridiculous feat of endurance: Write a 50,000 book in a month.

You get thirty-one 24 hour days, and not one word is allowed before November 1 or after November 30. Prewriting and plotting are great, the planning of characters and conflict are fine, too. But not one word of the book.If we reach that coveted 50,000 word mark, we win... what? An icon much like the ones above, only it says WINNER! You get the satisfaction of having done it. The words don't have to sing or even yodel. They just have to be.

How many people long to write a book, to be published, to communicate... something. They yearn for the time when their children are older, more independent. They wait for the time when they can devote themselves full time to the task. Many promise themselves they'll do it after they retire. They never do it, sadly.

The thing about this challenge that brings me joy is knowing that so many people are actually doing it. It's just for a month, you know. They can write every day for a month. Some will enjoy the exercise, then put their manuscripts away and never look at them again. And that's fine. But some will continue even after November. They'll go back to those words they wrote in such a hurry and they'll revised and rework them. They'll strengthen their characters, cut out the deadwood and prune their dialogue. Some will polish their books and send them out, only to have them come back in what seems to be return mail. Or, they'll hear nothing at all for months. Eventually, some of those books will get published. Yes, it has happened. Either way, I applaud them.

Oh, there are those that take offense How dare these people call themselves writers! Just the mention of NaNoWriMo Director Chris Baty's book "No Plot, No Problem" makes them crazy. A novel needs a plot!! Often, they resent someone who spent a month typing 50,000 thousand words of unintelligible drivel calling themselves a writer, or worse, an author.

In a way, I understand where they're coming from. They've worked long and hard, many for decades sweating blood over each book, each word. They've struggled to understand and learn this business. After rejections and despair they get "the call". They're published. Then, one day at the gym someone announces that they've just completed their first book and wants to know the name of their agent. They want fast action because they worked on it for a whole month!

My response: You can't fix a blank page, only one with words on it. I still support this program. In 2005 they had over 59,000 participants. Almost 10,000 people world-wide wrote their 50,000 words.In addition, in 2004 and 2005 the NaNoWriMo organization contributed over $20,000 to Room to Read to build libraries for kids in Cambodia. Those libraries are up and running now.

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