November 1st will mark the beginning of the 5th annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), founded in 1999 by Chris Baty and friends as a simple framework for writing a novel in a month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days. No small undertaking.
NaNoWriMo has grown by leaps and bounds each year and now features tens of thousands of participants from a host of countries. The only person you’re competing against is yourself, and each person who completes the task of 50,000 words by November 30th is declared a winner. Baty has also released a book this fall — No Plot? No Problem! — as a guide to negotiating and succeeding during the month-long process.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo from a fellow writer last year in late October, just a few days before it was set to begin. I loved the idea, as one of a writer’s worst enemies is free time. I “went on sabbatical” in the fall of 1999 to write my first book and freely admit to falling into a very productive pattern of doing everything but writing — I say “productive,” because I got tons of stuff done, but not so much having to do with my book. My saving grace was that I was also enrolled in seminary and did have deadlines for those assignments, which helped me get more into a writing frame of mind from time to time. The first draft was finished in the summer of 2000, and rhythm was published a year later.
Peter Gabriel has also lamented about the aimlessness of artists without deadlines. He said something along the lines of needing to lock artists in a room, telling them that they have ten minutes and two dollars to get their work done. Then you get real and brilliant results. Otherwise….
Write a book in a month? Quite ambitious to be sure, but no one said the book had to be good. If you turn out something you’d like to see in print, then consider the November exercise to be a first draft. More than one NaNoWriMo winner has gone on to see his/her book published.
I’d wanted to participate last year, but life intervened. A major tech writing project was coming to a sudden end, with lots of loose ends needing attention. Plus, I was figuring out where in the world I wanted to live next, since I was planning on leaving Richmond, Virginia, and saw the whole planet as an open invitation. But a seed of an idea was planted, and over time it grew and developed into the outline I’ve been flushing out for my current book.
But I’ve not had any deadlines. Not real ones. The deadlines and schedules you make up for yourself don’t count, because they are rarely adhered to. I can tell you that from experience. Right now, I have all of 6 pages written.
So, to jump-start Witches’ Brew, I will be participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. A number of folks, myself included, will also be blogging their efforts and thoughts on the process (NaNoBlogMo). I’ve started a new blog dedicated to this project: Witches’ Brew Blog. You’re welcome to stop by, read some of my most recent material, and generally keep apprised of the process. It’s going to be quite a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to it.