Saturday, October 29, 2011


My husband is about to embark on a piece of lunacy, and I think I'm going to join him.

It's NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - brought to us by the Office of Letters and Light ( at )

I have a full-time job which I am unsuccessfully trying to keep within bounds so that I can have a part-time life with my very nice husband. And I've got a full-time novel which I am determined will be The One I Finish. Why would I want to commit myself to writing 50,000 words in 30 days, when I'm already putting in 50+ hours a week on my 35 hour day job, and living part of every day and night in a twilight zone of imaginary people and events spanning eight decades and three countries?

Yet that, I think, is the appeal. Consider:

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Note those last two sentences. Crikey. I can't even send a three line email without tweaking and editing. My Draft folder sees as much action as my Spam folder. When I blog, I revise rants. My default setting is 'if-that's-all-right-by-you.' And I'm an English teacher, for God's sake! NaNoWriMo. It may be just what I need.

And I love the idea of the two of us bashing away at our repective follies. And occasionally popping out to compare notes with other volunteers for this November madness. Yes, there are others here in Madrid - and all over the world:

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.


In 2010, we had over 200,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.


So, to recap:
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.
Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To give yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To stop being one of those people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” and become one of those people who can say, “Oh, a novel? It’s such a funny story–I’ve written three.”
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins 12:00:01 November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at 11:59:59. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

So I think I'm going to give it a go. I don't know if I'll make it to 50,000 words by the deadline, but since the day job really is getting in the way of The One I'm Going To Finish, maybe I should kick back and have some fun. (And I'll be in London over Christmas, so I can do some research at the V&A and the British Museum!)

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