I’m not crazy. No, seriously, I’m not.
No crazier than thousands of other would-be novelist who want to try their hand at the greatest novelists writing challenge since Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecroft were stranded in Switzerland in the 1800’s. The fact that this challenge is held in November with Thanksgiving and the downhill slide toward college finals should not be taken as a reason to question our sanity.
National Novel Writing Month is an event that was started in a bar room in San Francisco (or coffee shop, depending on who’s telling the story) in 2001 and has exploded into a global challenge. Participants from all over the world write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.
Any genre of novel is allowed. Writing must commence no earlier than midnight on Nov. 1 and must end by midnight Dec. 1. Novels must be original. Plot is not essential to the challenge. There is no prize at the end except a downloaded certificate and bragging rights, but who needs more than that?
The idea behind National Novel Writing Month — or NaNoWriMo, as participants call it — is not to write the next great novel. It’s to write a novel, period. Editing and filling plot holes can come later. The first step is to get words down on paper or computer monitor or notebook or whatever medium the writer finds works best.
As if gracing the world with our words wasn’t enough, NaNoWriMo has spawned a charitable organization called The Office of Light and Letters that has built libraries in Third World countries and now provides creative writing programs in over 100 countries. High schools all over the nation are adapting the challenge as part of their creative writing curricula, and even some middle schools are incorporating the Young Writers Program, a form of NaNoWriMo geared to kids under 13 years old.
NaNoWriMo offers more than just a chance to see how quickly and how badly you can write in 30 days. The online forums offer writers a chance to find the answers to plot problems. Participants can safely ask how to crash a small plane or what to feed a pet tiger without spending hours in a library not knowing what book to look for. The librarian? What’s she going to think when you tell her you’re just researching a novel and need to know how fast a body buried in South Dakota will decay?
Many areas also have write-ins hosted by NaNoWriMo liaisons, and Auraria is no exception. A NaNo group gathers at the Honors House on 9th Street every Monday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Writers can compare notes, challenge each other and realize that they’re not the only ones who spend November freebasing sugar while hooked to an I.V. coffee drip.
Potential novelists can sign up for NaNoWriMo a few days before it’s all over if they think they can get to 50,000 words in seven days. Go to www.nanowrimo.org and register. You’d better hurry, though, because I totally have a 23,000-word head start.