In November, several members of the Filthy Piker community participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and 30. It's not a race or a contest. The novels are not judged, and a novel finished on November 30 is a winner just as surely as a novel completed on November 12. Yes, there are people who finish in less than two weeks. No one here does that, though.
Here, after a week to unwind and sleep, some of the Pikers share their thoughts
about the NaNoWriMo experience.
Three time winner Sand:
"This year was as profoundly different as the second year was from the first.
The first year was terrifying. I hadn't written anything since college. I
didn't think of myself as capable of writing. Then I found NaNoWriMo, and
wrote 60,000 words that I didn't know I had. I wrote everything I could in
the days following NaNo 2001: what I liked to eat, what I thought about the
world, about politics, about nature, about the people I met. I had turned
into a writer.
In the second year, I had a sense that I wanted to tell a specific story,
and when November first came, the story took off with me like an uncontrollable
horse, bashing me against trees and running away, out of control, keeping
me from sleep and causing me physical pain if I tried to leave it. Woo.
This year, I had a story in mind, but the thing that amazed me was that I
had no fear. I knew I could come up with the requisite words, and because
I was writing about something I loved (the subject being "Writing") it was
so darned easy I was embarrassed. And nothing mattered, as to the verb tenses
or the spelling. It was word count, all the way, just think of the longest
way to tell the story -- I knew I could hone the whole thing down to a short
story in December if need be."
Two time winner Jon Renaut:
This is my second year doing Nano. I finished last year, a novel complete
with beginning, middle, and end. This year I finished, except I was
still in the middle when I gave the story an abrupt, temporary, and ludicrous
end. I am among those who write a serious novel with the hope of finishing
after November, though I have yet to do much to that end. This year,
however, I am determined to seek publication.
So, why do I love Nano? Well, before last November, my longest work
of fiction was maybe 15,000 words. I was under the impression that
a full-length novel was beyond me. Thanks to last November, I find
that it isn't. If I can do 50,000 words, I can certainly do 100,000
or whatever you need for a completed novel. And I love the camaraderie,
the thousands of people who won't look at you funny when you tell them you'll
be writing a novel in a month. So many friends and acquaintances look
at us with, at best, amused interest. At worst, they are probably smiling
until you turn around and they can call the funny farm. What's even
better than all that is that Nano is a great place to meet like- (Or not
so like-) minded writers, or those who write, or those who would like to
write. Nano somehow manages to take a rather solitary profession, and
build a supportive community of people who know just how you feel.
Anyway, I plan to do it again next year. And the year after.
Hopefully, one of these days, I'll be giving advice in the forums about the
publishing process, and the thousands of beautiful women (Or men, if that's
your thing) who will flock to you when you mention that you're a "novelist",
gentle or otherwise.
Two time winner Cheryl Haimann:
Like many readers I've had that "Aha!" moment of reading an incredibly bad
novel that still managed to be published, and thinking, "I can write better
than this!" In 2002, NaNoWriMo gave me the opportunity to test that claim,
and the answer was, "No, you can't, at least not in thirty days after four
days of preparation." 2003 only confirmed that analysis.
I have learned, though, that even a lousy typist can punch out 50,000 words
in 30 days if she stops thinking about whether it is good or if it makes
sense. After all, the credo of Nano is "No Plot, No Problem." That's a rule
I can live with. My two novels are full of inconsistencies and more minor
characters surnamed "Lastname" than I can count. Still, I was as satisfied
as the last guy who finishes a marathon. I never expected to be the best,
so I am darned pleased just to hit the finish line in one piece.
But here is the amazing part: Even though I know the story is no good at
the moment I write it, when I look back on my writing weeks or months later
. . . some of it isn't that bad. Some of the characters, and not always the
main characters, are interesting and have compelling stories to tell. Some
of it is even good enough to make me want to try again. So even though on
December 1 I had that classic post-childbirth thought ("I am never doing
this again!"), I suspect that in October 2004 I will once again respond to
the siren call of frantic noveling.
Three time winner Alexandra Queen
This year, my greatest revelation from NaNo came in the form of evidence
that the brain is like a muscle of sorts. I started NaNo lamenting that I
haven't been able to write fiction for the better part of a year, let alone
do so with the enthusiasm and obsession that my other writing buddies have.
By week three of NaNo, the fiction was starting to flow. In the last week
of NaNo, with the help of my coach and compatriot Josh, I was back in the
Zone, spewing forth vast quantities of fun, not too shabby, mindless adventure.
That gift has continued and although I got very little usable material out
of my NaNovel this year, I am writing prolific and usable fiction once more.
The ol' brain muscle has been stretched out and toned up again. Thank you,
Signups for the 2004 installment of National Novel Writing Month begin in
October 2004. For more information, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org/
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