Sunday, October 2, 2011

Around the Writing World in 30 Days

I’m going to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

It doesn’t have to be a good one, it just has to be a novel with beginning, middle, and end, with characters, conflict, and resolution. Oh, and it has to be from scratch, no cutting and pasting of previous words because that would be cheating.

What madness is this, you ask? November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. 

NaNoWriMo is all the buzz on the writing forums these days as veterans and first-timers are gearing up for the annual challenge. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty and 20 other “overcaffeinated yahoos,” NaNoWriMo is now run by a non-profit organization called the Office of Letters and Light, whose stated goal is to encourage adults and children to reach their creative potential. Since its inception, NaNoWriMo has grown to over 500 chapters worldwide with more than 200,000 participants last year.

The blogs stress the importance of quantity of words over quality. In a complete break from traditional writing practice, from November 1 through November 30, participants are encouraged to churn out words with abandon, no editing, 30 days of uninhibited writing. All you have to do is tell a story in no less than 50,000 words. That works out to roughly 1600 words per day. Not only does this take discipline, it also takes time. Planning is essential.

Why 50,000 words, you ask? Because that is the magic number for most mass-market paperback novels.

Why is quantity stressed over quality? The idea of pushing volume of words is geared to free the writer creatively from the self-editing that leads to writer’s block. If it doesn’t have to be good, then you aren’t limited by genre or believability. If you get stuck you can always have a group of crazed penguins armed to the teeth fall through the ceiling, slap your main character with a herring, then shimmy back up a rope humming the soundtrack from “Spamalot.” Writers tend to get silly when they get blocked. This allows the silliness to spew forth unchecked.

The idea is that maybe, just maybe, you might have a decent first draft when you’re finished that you can shape and hone into a marketable novel. It’s happened before, roughly 90 times! But the goal isn’t to get your novel published. The goal is to write a novel – good, bad, or indifferent.

If you’ve ever had the idea of writing a novel, I invite you to join me in the attempt. I’m not sure I can complete a novel in 30 days, but I’m willing to try. Who’s with me?


  1. Oh are my hero. I just sat down to write my new blog post (on finding the inspiration to write) and I see this. Pressure! I am with you in spirit woman, if nothing else. Please keep me posted on your progress....

  2. Oh, I'll be posting updates here to be sure! Now that I know someone is going to be watching, the pressure is ON!!

  3. Good luck, 'Cali. Anything planned by a bunch off over-caffeinated yahoos has to be worthwhile, and fun. :)