All over the country this morning, bleary-eyed people dragged themselves out of bed and headed for their computers, intent on producing the next great American novel. Yes, it's NaNoWriMo time again--that thirty-day orgy of word-counts. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. I haven't seen the figures on how many would-be writers have signed up this year, but i'm guessing, based on previous years and advanced publicity, that there will be well over 200,000 participants. Can you even imagine how many words would be written if all of them finished the challenge? By my count, 10 billion. And how many complete novels? Uh. . . . .that's quite another issue.
I wish everyone well. I've done this exercise four times, now, and while I finished twice, I never produced anything that was publishable without several more months of work on it. But then, that's just my own experience. I've noticed a lot of internet groups who have been doing build-ups to NaNoWriMo by practicing writing in spurts, as well as by plot outlining and character sketching. Technically, such preparation is against the rules, but it will undoubtedly help those who would otherwise spend most of the month hunting for a story.
Maybe this year, someone really will produce the next great American novel. I suspect, however, that the real accomplishment will be elsewhere. Almost everyone I talk to wants to write a book some day. NaNoWriMo is a great way to discover if writing is really for you. Thirty days at the computer, cranking out a minimum of 1667 words every day? If you find you like it, if you start writing more than the minimum, if you find that you are becoming wrapped up in your story, then maybe writing is a career to consider. If all you get out of it is frustration, a pile of undone laundry and dirty dishes, and a rampant case of fanny fatigue, then you'll know that it's time to take up another hobby, like snowshoe hiking or tatting a rug. Either way it will be time well-spent.
I wish all of you the best of luck in your efforts. If things go well, the phone won't ring, the plumbing won't back up, no one will get sick, and you will be hit by waves of inspiration that translate into glowing prose. I'll be rooting for you -- just doing it from the sidelines this year.
If you're still thinking about writing a novel when December comes around, you may find that the third section of my new book, The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese, will be helpful. Chapter nine deals with NaNoWriMo, and you don't want to read it until you're finished with your own participation. Then you can compare your experience with mine.
The next two chapters offer some writing help. Need some tips on planning your story? Bothered by plots, characterization, point of view, or themes? Then chapters ten and eleven are designed for you. Here's the line-up:
9. Choose Quality over Quantity
10. Know Where the Story Is Headed
11. Clarify Points of View and Themes
Later this week, we'll talk about the rest of the book. I don't have a launch date yet, but The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese will be out in time for the holidays. Remember, if you are interested in this book, either for yourself or as a gift for the budding writer in your life, you can pre-order it now at a special introductory price. Visit the Mouse's website at www.thesecondmousegetsthecheese.org