It’s National Novel Writing Month, and instead of writing my novel I am sitting in the Jackson Public library writing about not writing and daydreaming about hosting an audio book club in my new two bedroom cottage. I’m also distracted by the fact that I just hit myself in the face with my own car door, and my lip is now swollen and large and I’m wondering if this is how Angelina Jolie feels all the time. Welcome to November.
Every year during the month of November, thousands of participants buckle down to belt out 50,000 words in 30 day’s time. This is perhaps the length of a short novel, or a novella, but it is still novel-length nonetheless. The clock starts ticking on November 1, and ends at midnight on the 30th. Often for writers, this means an entire month of coffee binging, late night, vampire-like bouts of nocturnal word-quota hussling that sometimes results with drool on the keyboard when you fall asleep and awaken with a “sjhfjasdjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj” on your screen, and excessive missed texts/phone calls from friends demanding to know why you’ve fallen off the face of the Earth. The key is to forewarn loved ones ahead of time, because most likely you will turn down social plans in order to stay home and type away furiously at your lap top while sipping Jim Beam, because “real” writers drink whiskey, and perhaps if you pretend you’re a real writer, the words will flow flawlessly from your fingertips, parading a future bestseller on the blank document before you.
I started participating in National Novel Writing Month at the age of 14 (ten years ago, now.) It was at the recommendation of a pen pal that I once had. My first year, I only reached 14,000 words and dejectedly abandoned my story, concluding that my skills were worthless. Over the years to come, I learned that NaNoWriMo has nothing to do with skill – it is about sitting your ass down, suppressing your inner editor/procrastinator/self-doubt, and activating your go-getter persona in order to write the novel you always talked about writing. It matters little whether or not you excelled in your high school English class. No one ever has to read it. You don’t even ever have to read it, if that’s your preference (I have never gone back to read an entire one of my manuscripts through, although I’ve completed 8 of them.) Many writers, do, however, go on to publish their novels (click to see a list of published novels, which includes Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants!)
In order to reach 50,000 words on time, writers must write 1,667 words per day, so, theoretically, I should be at about 5,000 words so far. My current word count is a whopping 0. I’m not panicking yet!
I encourage everyone to check out www.Nanowrimo.org to learn more and maybe even join in this year — it’s not too late! I’ll be sharing my journey on Quinnthegirl.com. I’ve often tried to describe to friends what it’s like to do Nanowrimo, and I have trouble doing the experience justice. The only way, I realized, is to bring you along the journey with me.
Quinn the Girl