December 4, 2007

What is NaNoWriMo and Why Did I Do It?

Here's the challenge: write, in the month of November, a novel of 50,000 words length. Thirty days. That is the simple goal of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. Run by a somewhat ad hoc nonprofit organization, the now-annual event attracted over 90,000 of writers from every corner of the world, including a couple of thousand hardy Minnesotans. The idea is to "just sit down and write" without worrying about perfecting your work, without fussing, and without procrastination. After the month is over, then you can rewrite, revise, edit, restructure. Schoolteachers have had great success using NaNoWriMo to stimulate student interest in writing.

Why did I try NaNoWriMo? I was up for a new challenge, and wanted to try writing in a different manner than usual. Last year, I lasted all of ten minutes. This year, I was ready for it, and wrote steadily for the whole month, reaching what I thought was a very reasonable amount of 30,000 words (bear in mind that 1000–2000 words a day is for many writers an average daily output, and that most novels are actually going to be 65,000 words or more).

I prepared well for the month-long adventure. I thought through the structure for the new novel, which is a follow-up to DEATH BY THE DEPOT (the manuscript of which, almost complete, was ready for a month of fermentation).I stocked up on food, took care of winterizing chores, and warned people what I was up to just in case I got a glazed look in my eye. I filled my fountain pen, sharpened some pencils, and assembled a stack of color-coordinated scrap paper. I did some test runs with my new novel-writing software (the very wonderful Scrivener for Mac). I then opened the door for the novel's newly minted dozen-or-so characters to come in and start taking shape.

The result? A good solid start for me on a novel that has been lurking in the back of my mind for a couple of years; some new work methods for my repertoire. Some new writing buddies (the Twin Cities had just shy of 1600 people signed up, who produced 13,059,537 words, and placed 3rd internationally in number of words written, just behind Seattle and "Maryland"). Mostly, though, I had fun.

What's next? Now it's this novel's turn to ferment for a spell while I take care of other matters including DEPOT, and begin to dream up a story for next year's NaNoWriMo.

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