Thursday, July 15, 2004


Nanowrimo encourages people to do something that, without a bit of encouragement, they would never get round to doing. Namely, write a novel. Knowing that we all have an epic lurking unwritten somewhere beneath the service, the group (NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation of National Novel Writing Month) preaches a strict doctrine. In their words,

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Speaking as someone who has tried on several occasions to write a novel but inevitably been sidetracked by beer, work, books and the kind of ambitiousness which leads you down blind alleys of endless tweaking and re-writing, I think this is a really refreshing idea. It gives you that bit more freedom to not worry about consistency or accuracy and instead concentrate on getting something written. One can always go back and edit later, after all.

When the challenge was first run in 1999 only six writers limped past the finishing line. Last year 3500 managed it, so it's clearly not impossible. Most appealingly, it imposes a kind of disclipline on the writer, something that most people I know, now in their mid twenties and five years having passed since they wrote their dissertations or revised for exams, have not experienced in a long time. And may not want to again, granted. But it's only a month, and it's a great idea. And maybe we need to be made to do it, after all this prevarication.

The site boasts a suppportive forum with plenty of support and encouragement, and participants arrange local meet-ups to discuss their progress. There's even a section where you can take your ailing story to a 'plot-doctor' who'll get you back on the straight and narrow.

It has, too, I guess, enormous potential for bloggers, if one is not already tired of the concept of a 'blog-novel'. Yes, Plain Layne, I'm looking at you.

Well, perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it, as now it looks like I'm promising to do it. If I never mention it again (or worse, never mention it again after blogging enthusiastically for the first couple of days in November) just now that I tried, really I did, I tried.

Registration starts on October 1. Let's do it.

1 comment:

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