If you are fond of exercising your fingers and want to spice up the dreary month of November, consider writing a 50,000 word brand-new novel in 30 days for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And no, writing one word repeated 50,000 times does not count.
Having started out in 1999, with freelance writer Chris Baty persuading 21 other people to join him in a literary marathon, NaNoWriMo gained popularity in no time. With every year, the event formalized and grew in number of participants. By 2003, it was so large that the NaNoWriMo team had to recruit their first group of Municipal Liaisons (ML), or volunteers that would help with organizing events in their hometowns. In 2012, more than 250,000 people signed up and 3,313,868,620 words were written.
"We wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twenty-somethings start bands. Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn't have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists," said Baty, who wrote his book No Plot? No Problem! during the event.
Following this sentiment (or not), auto mechanics, college students, middle school English teachers, biologists and plain old writers from all around the world, are readying up for Nov. 1.
But why surrender yourself, as the slogan goes, to "30 days and nights of literary abandon"? Why stress under deadline pressures and a 1,667 daily word quota? This year's Ottawa County-Grand Rapids (OCGR) municipal liaisons Brittany Wilson and Darla Davis give us a hint.
"People usually start to participate because of the tagline, 'Here is a chance to write that novel.' But once you get involved, especially in our area, the community aspect is just huge. Everybody is friendly, everybody is very involved and encouraging," said Wilson, Lansing Community Health Analyst and four-time NaNoWriMo challenge winner.
"It's really a great way to get to know other writers in area," added Davis, a self-employed graphics printer and a seven-time winner. "Writing is usually such a solitary thing that people do. But when you have the common goal of getting a draft out in a month period, everybody gets their own story but embark on the same journey. They are able to support each other and celebrate together and go through all the things you would have to do on your own."
Indeed, NaNoWrimo is not just about finishing a draft, but it is a legitimate and enduring community experience, a festival of sorts. One may meet people of the area, who are unique in their own right and yet share interests and quirks, people who would be willing to hang out, write and celebrate when all is over by shamelessly banging pots and pans around and dancing.
My NaNo novels are gaining digital dust on my hard drive, but I still have a lot of my friends I made over NaNoWriMo," said Mary Margaret, recent college graduate, four-time winner and Grand Rapids participant.
Although NaNoWriMo emphasizes creative enthusiasm and fun, this does not mean that a novel written for the event could never become a polished piece of writing. More than 90 novels that begun during NaNoWriMo have been published, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, all No. 1 New York Times Best Sellers. From the OCGR area, P.J. Morvant-Alexander self-published her NaNo novel, Relevance, and Kimberly Bento, Megan Forman and Trista Vanderwood each wrote a novel in the series The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court, two of which have been self-published through lulu.com.
But be it for an active and friendly community, publishing or self-satisfaction, NaNoWriMo encourages everyone and anyone to stop dreaming about the perfect novel and take the first step to write it. There is no need to be afraid. The 50,000 words are simply a motivational goal.
"Somebody told me: if you only write 10,000 words in 30, that's still 10,000 words you wouldn't have written otherwise," Margaret said. "That's pretty good. That's 10,000 whole words, which is a lot."
For more information on the OCGR events, find your region at nanowrimo.org or look for "OCGR Wrimos" in Facebook and Twitter.
For those who love this social aspect of NaNoWriMo, Wilson and Davis have several events prepared for the month:
- Kickoff party (Nov. 3, 1-3 p.m. Vitale's pizzeria & lounge in Hudsonville): A meet and mingle event.
- Knock-out Noveling day (Nov. 10, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Culture Works institute, Holland): An eight hour, non-stop, go-nuts-writing write-in.
- Thank-God-Its-Over party (Dec. 1, 1 p.m. Kent District Library, Kentwood): A day-of celebration in which awards for the most words, craziest sentence and such will be given out.
Additionally, throughout the month, the MLs will take turns holding one hour write-ins once a week at different parts of OCGR.