13 10 2009

I’m going to write a novel next month.

This statement is not quite as random as it sounds. I signed up yesterday to become a part of the 11th annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  (see badge, at right)  Along with other aspiring writers from around the world,  I will be spending the month of November trying to crank out 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days.  (Yikes!! The longest thing I’ve ever written, to date, is my senior honors thesis, which weighs in at a mere 19,288 words.  And it took me an entire year to complete)

Now, notice that I didn’t say I’m going to write a good novel.  Half the fun of this organization/challenge is that all of the participants, it seems, are self-aware enough to realize that typing out 1,677 words a day, ad nauseum, can lend itself to a whole lot of awful prose.  As the FAQ state:

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.

Hmmm….either I’ve drunk the NaNoWriMo Kool-Aid, or that actually makes sense.  So, either expect me to disappear from the face of the blogosphere next month, as I will be expending my writing energy elsewhere;  or expect a lot of updates, word counts, and if you’re lucky, an excerpt or two.

Right now, I’m excited.  We’ll see how I feel come mid-November.  In the meantime, I’m off to develop some characters and outline a plot…