Monday, November 02, 2009

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

In case you haven't heard, this month is National Novel Writing Month, also called NaNoWriMo. If you have questions or need help of any sort, visit the link above to the nanowrimo website.

For a number years, I've been under the opinion that the volume of writers has been on the increase, although it appears the number of readers has been on the decrease. Thanks to computers, it is easy to become a writers. Of course, there is more than the declaration. Writing is a very important aspect of being a writer. I suppose that's why nanowrimo is a wonderful way of jumping in head first. Writing a novel is daunting. Writing one in a month is... well even more daunting.

This is also the time of year that the emails arrive, asking me if I'm joining in the fun. I confess, I never have. Oddly, I've always been to busy with writing projects to attempt a novel in a month. Such irony. But that doesn't mean I don't share in the spirit, and even try to write a bit more to share the "pain"? And, as I am writing, editing, and revising presently, I'm in the game, so to speak.

Yes, I did say "game,' because it is a bit of a game. Countless writers spend this month moderately competing against each other for high word counts, each attempting to reach a goal of a novel length manuscript. It is possible. I know a few people who have done it several times. And I know many, many people who have almost accomplished it and ended up well on their way to finishing a novel. So why not give it a shot? Grab a web word counter, and even if you don't write a novel, see how many words you can write this month. Oh, and don't forget to read! Those who write, do read. And those who read, often write. It's a great way to learn, and it is one of the oldest methods of building writing skills: reading and writing.

Even though it probably isn't needed, I'm going to offer my favorite starting point. Of course, it varies for every person. There is no uniform system of "how to write" (even if there are published books explaining the process). In the end, only the writer and determine the best method and approach. As for me, I like to start with three things:

  1. Narrator: The person actually writing the story - that's not the writer, it is an invented voice/person.
  2. Character(s): Grab a handful and place them in a conflicting situation. Conflict leads to story. It can even be characters in conflict with each other.
  3. Plot: The general purpose or movement of the story. Chase? Mystery? Exploration? Adventure? Murder?
There it is. Take one of those broad plot concepts (or one you think up), stir in conflict and characters, add a narrator, and a novel starts to cook. Let your imagination and fingers do the rest of the work. And remember, plenty of people are writing alongside you.


Rick said...

I think NaNoWriMO is a secret code for something insidious and probably a Masonic plot. Thousands of writers working on a one month novel- what else could it mean?

Or, perhaps its a plot by the manufacturers of Tylenol to sell more Tylenol.

Either way, I smell a conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Rick, don't forget that roomful of monkeys punching away at the typewriters, striving for Shakespeare...

Stewart Sternberg said...

I have been skeptical of this, but if people enjoy it, then what the heck? The next important activity following NaNoWriMo is of course National Novel Editing and Revision Month. This is followed by National Novel Rejection Month and National Novel Why Do You Hate Me Month.

Akasha Savage said...

I have enough trouble trying to write a chapter a month, let alone a novel! :D

William Jones said...

Rick - Maybe you have a novel idea there. :) With less than a month to write it, I'd suggest caffeine as well.

Jeff - I've counted on those monkeys for years. They've yet to produce on a deadline.

Stewart - A very good point. For me, it is easier to have written and edit than to edit without having written.

Akasha - Deadlines are brutal things. They motivate and cause agony. Then again, you can always write shorter chapters, thereby writing more chapters a month. :)