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April 15, 2024

The Life-Affirming Thing that is NaNoWriMo, part II

By Tedi Trindle

So, it has begun, the mad dash for fifty thousand, yes, folks, count 'em, fifty, thousand words. Already I see panic and mayhem, along with a lot of what seems to be cheating and what is also probably amazing productivity. The boards are alive, and, so very slow, you're better off spending your time writing than waiting for your forum to come up.

What are we talking about? NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, a collective of tens of thousands of individual novelists who come together each November to plow through 50,000 words of prose in 30 days. The idea behind the madness is to help struggling authors break free of the habit of starting a piece of fiction and abandoning it because it wasn't going very well. Or to shed them of writer's block because they think every sentence has to be pristine and perfect the first time around. In Nano, nothing is sacred, nothing is divine. It's all about word count, be it paste jewelry or glittering jewels.

As of this writing, we are two days into the effort, and I can see the sweat beaded on brows around the world. I've seen writers who have joined from a number of different countries. The demographics lean heavily toward a younger set, mostly teens and twenty-somethings, but there is a healthy contingent of self-proclaimed geezers plowing away at their first, or fifth, novel. There are published writers and novelists, and people who have never written a fictional sentence in their lives. There are writers slaving away at what they are sure will be the Great American Novel, and fanfic writers who only want to emulate their writer heroes. It is truly a free-for-all, and I'm loving every minute of it.

I'll admit to a certain amount of competitiveness. I don't feel like I have to be at the front of the pack, but, likewise, I will be uncomfortable if I fall much behind the required daily word count of 1667 words. And I do enjoy seeing the blue line on my writing status bar grow increasingly fat as I slowly approach the fifty thousand word mark.

What strikes me most is the warm camaraderie I've encountered. Much have it has been in the 40+ Geezers thread, where most of the writers are mature and share my generation's world view and experience, but I've seen a lot of hearteningly good attitude in the younger set, as well. The earnestness and determination there could change a lot of older minds about the hope (or lack thereof) for the future.

Part of the experience that is Nano is making friends. Last year I met people that I fully expect will be my friends for life. I hope to do the same this year.

In keeping with the spirit of collective encouragement and support, I signed onto the Adopt-a-Newbie thread as a vet willing to mentor a new competitor. Most of the adoptees (which vastly outnumber the adoptive parents, I should add), are young, college or high school aged. But they are actively seeking guidance and advice on their quest for 50k. After a few days, I found myself the new proud parent of two college-aged women who sincerely petitioned me for assistance and have faithfully reported their earliest progress. One of them has temporarily lost her net access, but still had a friend message me regarding her word count status and mindset. The other made a good start, but is starting to run out of outline and wanted to know if she should keep writing, or return to organizing. "Keep writing," was my advice.

So far, I've given out advice to the lovelorn, participated in a minor flamewar, related the last year of my life and how Nano changed my life completely to dozens of people, and just generally enjoyed being in the midst of a flock of terrific folks all hell-bent on the same purpose. Fifty thousand words.

The games have begun. Bring on the dancing boys.
Article © Tedi Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-11-01
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