Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To Write or Not to Write

What is NaNoWriMo?
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 painstaking 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.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and -- when the thing is done -- the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

Writing for a cause:
Its like running a marathon for a cause. The funds raised will pay for the purchase and transport of 600-800 books in both Vietnamese and English, kid-sized furniture, maps, games, and ongoing librarian training for Libraries in Southeast Asia. You can also pleadge a certain amount per word that I write and then write a check at the end.

Q> 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?
A> 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.

Other writing events:
NaNoFiMo is in December, for those that couldn’t complete their novel in November…

NaNoEdMo takes place in March, basically to edit your novel…

NaBloPoMo is also in November, for those who cannot write novels but can blog :-) basically a blog a day…


Reema Banerjee said...

i am on 13000 plus right now. i was lagging behind coz of a weekend military camp! but i caught on. but i still think i am slow. i am getting all caught up in this, its on my mind all day...i mean...i cant even sleep in peace, it keeps popping up in my dreams! but its ok...arent we blore writers ever meeting up????

japinder said... u an aspiring novelist too! :)

Has the word count of your novel improved by now?

Alistair D'souza said...

yeah :-)
wordcount not increased drastically .. been at it sporadically... but the story keeps on evolving :-)

need to take 3-4 months off and just complete it...
plan to complete the first draft before this year end... that or i'll shoot myself :-)