This event, started by writer Chris Baty, encourages would-be novelists to get over their stalling ways and finally take the
plunge by whipping out a 175-page novel (50,000 words) in 30 days.
Quality is largely optional and, frankly, beside the point.
The secret to success in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) lies in a single motivation: an insanely tight deadline. The event begins at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 1 and stops at the stroke of midnight Nov. 30. No time for editing or polishing, and writer’s block is a luxury you can no longer afford. Their motto: “No Plot? No Problem!”
“When you sort of look at this you think this is really a stupid idea, you know. Everybody’s out there just trying to write a bad novel,” NaNoWriMo creator and freelance writer Chris Baty said. “Really when you write for quantity instead of quality on the first draft I think you end up getting both. A first draft is where you want to be taking risks and making mistakes.”
There’s no fee to sign up, no penalties for failure and not much in the
way of prizes. And Baty believes this is part of the charm.
“You get a winner’s certificate, and you get your name up on our
winner’s page, and that’s about it. We have a remarkably mediocre array
of prizes for what is a lot of work. But we kinda feel that not having
prizes helps keep the focus on just writing for that giddy feeling of
getting lost in one of these worlds of your imagination, and not so
much the ‘Best Novel’ or the ‘First Person to Finish Their Novel.’
Really, we have lots of winners every year,” he said.
Last year saw 101,510 aspiring adult NaNoWriMo writers (also known as
“WriMos”) signed up, with 15,333 “winners” crossing that magic 50k
line. Not bad for something that started with 21 people in San
Francisco in 1999. Membership has grown every year and WriMos can now
be found in every state, as well as more than 70 countries.
Returning this year as local liaison is Bruce Woodworth, 58, a retired
carpenter supervisor in Port Orange, who started a local writing group
after jumping into the 2006 NaNoWriMo at the last minute on a dare. “I
had no idea what my characters were gonna be, what my plot was gonna
be, what my story was gonna be,” he said. “I just wrote my first
sentence and went from there. Made my 50,000, and that was it.”
Woodworth found several local writers in the NaNoWriMo’s forums, and
they met regularly every week last year to hammer out their words in
caffeine-fueled company. And many of them are expected to try it again.
“I’ve had seven new people contact me, as well as five of us
from last year,” he said.
The forums at nanowrimo.org are worthwhile writers’ resources in their own right, full
of plot discussions, answers to tricky questions from experts around
the world, general moaning over writer’s block and the invaluable peer
pressure you can only get from 80,000 other similarly stressed writers.
WriMos also get weekly pep talk e-mails with tips and advice from established writers. Previous pep talks have come from Neil Gaiman, Lani Diane Rich, Naomi Novik, Sue Grafton, Tom Robbins, and more.
Many participants have gone on to become published authors themselves — most
notably Sara Gruen, whose New York Times bestseller “Water for
Elephants” began life as a NaNo novel — but that isn’t necessarily the
The point is to do something absurd, something challenging, and
to stomp on your inner editor long enough to prove to yourself that you
can be a writer. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the time, which can be the hardest part of bashing out a novel.
“I’m lucky,” Woodworth said. “This year I took an early retirement from Halifax
Health, so I hope to have even more time than the last two years (which I won,
incidentally.) You have to MAKE the time if you have a dream to fulfill.“
Whatever your reasons for not writing might be, Chris Baty believes
that everyone should try it at least once. “Whether you believe it or
not,” he said, “you have a book in you.”
The local NaNoWriMo writing group will be meeting in November at the Panera Bread on International Speedway Boulevard on Friday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. until noon.