According to the old Piker Press Forums, it was in August of 2003 that Cheryl Haimann (Poetry Editor and author of our Backyard Astronomy articles) suggested that the bunch of Filthy Pikers milling about at a Staff Meeting/Party get back into shape as writers by using Labor Day Weekend to write 10,000 words. There were no limits on subject matter or quality; the only rule was that the 10,000 words be written between midnight Friday and midnight on Monday. Three days, ten thousand words. 10k for Labor Day.
Now, you might ask, what kind of idiot tries to write ten thousand words in three days? Well, perhaps the kind of idiot who somehow managed to write fifty thousand words of fiction in thirty days -- the kind of idiot who had accepted the challenge of National Novel Writing Month the year before.
You see, in order to write a fifty thousand word novel in November, it averages out to a minimum of 1667 words per day. (And that gives you ten words extra by the end of the month.) And who gets around to writing exactly that many words each day in November? Some days you end up procrastinating and playing Spider Solitaire for four hours in order to "warm up" and only get 45 words down towards your goal; some days you fall prey to the weakness of worrying that the crappy novel you intended to write is turning up some good paragraphs and you stop writing, afraid to ruin the pages that flow. The words you need to produce to meet the November 30 deadline loom bigger and bigger ... Wait! You slap yourself around the desk a couple times, pounce on your keyboard and VOW you won't eat another potato chip or go to the bathroom before you've hammered out enough words to get you back on track ...
A lot of NaNoWriMists have done that. Probably the most grueling day I spent was choking out 8400 words of mushy, confused dreck to get myself back in the running. So if you can thrash yourself into catching up by writing four thousand, eight thousand, even a hopped-up caffeine-binging twelve thousand -- why, writing 10k over Labor Day weekend is nothing.
Guess again, Grasshopper! Labor Day weekend is traditionally the last blast of "summer" fun, and sitting at a keyboard while friends and relatives are barbecuing by the pool and throwing empty beer cans at you is not very beguiling. In addition, it should be remembered that most stores are running Labor Day Weekend Sales in order to squeeze the last bit of your vacation money out of your wallets ... what would you rather do, try to write an epic poem in free verse for five hours or check out the Fall Sweater Collection at Macy's?
I've never yet succeeded in reaching 10k by the end of Labor Day. But it's been a good experience for me all four years I've tried it, because there is something magical about getting up in the dark, with the air just starting to hint of autumn crispness; the cup of tea sits on my desk, steaming a little in the chill air, and an utterly blank document appears on my computer screen. Suddenly I remember why I'm doing this: to prepare for NaNoWriMo, which is just two months away and coming at me like a freight train. The adrenaline surges, and I remember what it's like to be a full-on writer, pounding out the words so fast that the characters take over and write the story for me, dragging me along while I marvel at how differently they turned out than what I had originally planned.
Check out NaNoWriMo.org and think about writing your own novel this November. You'll never be the same again. And then, NEXT Labor Day weekend ...