November is National Novel Writing Month: write a novel of 50,000 by November 30th and win . . . well, not much, an icon on their website and a certificate, BUT you could also get published, have fodder for your blog, or just finally be motivated to write that Great American Novel you’ve always wanted to write. Now, 50,000 isn’t exactly novel length, more like a novella, but still . . . it’s something, right? And plenty of famous, successful writers wrote more than a few novellas (think Stephen King, think Ernest Hemingway–opposite ends of the fame and success spectrum, but both were/are both famous and successful.).
In fact, Hemingway is pretty well known to have written about 2,000 words a day and to have worked for several hours each morning, writing in long hand with a pencil. Two thousand words sounds like a lot, but it’s about eight pages, and doing that each day for 25 days will have you right there at the 50,000 word mark. Other writers, according to Leon Fletcher, write novels in time frames ranging from 36 hours to 30 years!
Anyway, I find this a fascinating concept and one that I’d not heard of before; however, according to the National Novel Writing Month website, they’ve experienced a rise in participants each year:
1999: 21 participants and six winners
2000: 140 participants and 29 winners
2001: 5,000 particpants and more than 700 winners
2002: 13,500 participants and around 2,100 winners
2003: 25,500 participants and about 3,500 winners
2004: 42,000 participants and just shy of 6,000 winners
2005: 59,000 participants and 9,769 winners.
I’ve no idea how they select the winners, but given that so many people do win, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance of anyone doing so!
I think this is a fantastic idea, and that if gets even ONE person writing a novel(la) in November, it’s a successful project: if writing is an art form, then good writing is art and the best writing is Art.
From the National Novel Writing Month website (and wiser words I’ve rarely read):
If I’m just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?
There are three reasons.
1) If you don’t do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a “one day” event. As in “One day, I’d like to write a novel.” Here’s the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It’s just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you’ll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.
2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you’ll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you’d never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.
3) Art for art’s sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and “must-dos” of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.