6 Nov 2011
Every October BookCrossing.com and the rest of the literary world – both producers and consumers – is noisy with people asking each other, “So, are you going to be doing NaNoWriMo this year?”
NaNoWriMo, known in full as National Novel Writing Month, is an international scheme for participants to write a 50 000 word novel in the thirty days of November.
It seems a big ask, and if your life is at all busy, it is. YokoSpungeon, when asked the question, gave the very best answer, “NoNoNoNo!”.
But that’s actually quite a short novel, and the 1 666 words per day isn’t hard to do – three or four normal reading pages. Nor is there any check on quality. You can write “The quick brown fox makes Jack a dull boy” over and over until you have your word count, submit it and be a winner.
I’ve done it a few times now, and only produced one result that was at all worthwhile. I actually did that in ten days, having spent the first half of November 2004 at the Sydney BookCrossing Convention in Sydney, writing about it and then preparing myself to excuse my lack of effort in NaNoWriMo.
I realised that I wrote a few thousand words per day in forum posts, my blog, journal posts and emails, so maybe if I wrote a novel in that format, I could do it. And I did. I made my main character a BookCrosser who had supposedly joined during the convention in response to a book released in Martin Square.
I wrote the book more or less in real time and had a great deal of fun with it. I enlisted the aid of a few BookCrossers, including BookCzuk, to keep an eye on my progress in case other BookCrossers would become concerned over this tale of extortion and romance, as detailed in book releases and forum posts, and they didn’t complain too much.
The end result, Manly Books is still around, but it’s more of a curiosity than a good read. I later modified the ending so that the poor tortured lawyer fell asleep right at the end.
BookCzuk, perhaps inspired by my effort in ten days, took part next year, and her NaNoWriMo effort, published online as she was writing it, was a wonderful story. Whimsy and history, utter charm and a great plot. She took it down after writing it, and that’s pretty much the last we ever heard. Even now, Google reveals only the most tangential of traces:
I just am chiming in to say I got snookered into this madness…
Years ago, after one of our infamous Charleston hurricanes, something happened- as I watched my son and his best friend scramble though the marsh and pluff mud, seeking treasures blown in by the storm, a story came to me. I’ve kept it tucked away all this time- despite my son urging me to “just write it”.
So…now, I am going to try. I’m not going to sorry about finesse or names or even historical accuracy- that can come later. I’m just going to give birth to this baby. It’s been gestating for nearly a decade and that’s long enough!
Working title: The Door Back
Pardon me whilst I go bash my head against the wall for doing this!
Lulu offered a free copy of all NaNoWriMo winners, and one copy was printed and stored away on BookCzuk’s shelf in the guest room, where I found it in April 2006, when I had four magic days in Charleston. Still living in several timezones, I spent a fair chunk of each night reading the book again. And loving it.
Perhaps it gets a little rough towards the end, but that’s just things like sentence structure and sleeplessness. The story is told to the finish, the characters are rounded out and developed, and the reader puts it down with a sigh, wishing for more. BookCzuk, if you are reading this, please haul out the book, read it over with fresh eyes, polish up the freckles, find an agent and get it published. It’s too good not to share with the world.
- Las Vegas Chew Toy by Laura Alton
- Flying Changes by Sara Gruen.
- Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
- And a whole heap more.
Most of all, it’s great fun, it has a lot of support mechanisms from local groups organising “write-ins” and forums offering ideas and research and enthusiastic cheering as the last few days whip past, and ultimately the satisfaction of knowing that yes, you can write a book.
That’s a major psychological hurdle. Books are for real writers, yeah? But here you are, with 50 000 words under your belt, a story that you can share – or not, and the knowledge that you can do it again if you want.
I found that after my first NaNoWriMo effort, I was able to produce an actual book-for-sale in a few months. It’s sold a few copies and though I wince over some of it now, it’s ticked that “author” box, and I’m thinking about writing more.
With BookCrossers and NaNoWriMo, there’s a natural fit. Every reader has got a novel somewhere inside, and it might have been gestating for years. Why not let it out in a few weeks of glorious writing, when all your friends are scribbling their hearts out?