Ready, Set, Write: National Write a Novel Month Begins Today

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.

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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.


The pic is of an aging Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) writing in bed.


10 thoughts on “Ready, Set, Write: National Write a Novel Month Begins Today

  1. What a timely blog you have posted this day Fuzzy. Thank you. You know I am in the process and have been for some weeks now of writing a NOVEL! This is a very encouraging blog and I will be posting something about this soon. Some of my novel is on Annie’s page and now I am in the process of formulating my beginning..huggs.

  2. Hei Fuzz.

    Tis a great even a fab idea most definitely. Are you going to take part in it yourself like now? Take care and do keep well. D FF (still and actually, more n more so as the freezer temps really set in!!)

    PS. Recognized your man = Mark Twain immediately as am a great fan of his writings. ‘Innocence Abroad’ in particular.

  3. Being a guy with a short attention span can be a problem with a problem like this! I agree, 8,000 words is not all that much. It surprises me how quickly those kind of limitations rear their ugly heads on job applications.

    Ironically, I have started a novel several times, good concept, just couldn’t get it going much passed a starting stage.

    Good to hear from you again

  4. When i read this I thought” this sunds like a task for our very own mavis” Then, lo and behold, i look in your comments and there she is, already to take on the task at hand. I like to write childrens stories, but they never last long enough to call them novels. The longerts one i ever wrote was 10 pages long. I think it was twen pages, i have to check, but somethimg like that. How ya feeling today?

  5. Woohoo, Mavis! So exciting, can’t wait to see your novel hit the stands!

    Naw, Riihele (can you send me a phonetic pronounciation of your name? I know I say it wrong in my head), I’m not a fiction writer, though I have considered collaberating on a XXX novel with an old friend! Gasp.

    It’s difficult to find momentum for writing anything, I find, Gregg, even sometimes a blog, so I like this idea of the now or never push that the month deadline gives: just put your head down and plow through. Nothing to lose, so much to gain. Good to be back, and very good to see you again.

    Doing better, Lise, just cannot wait to get this cast off my arm. It’s getting cold up here in Massachusetts, and I’ve very few long sleeved items (sweaters, coats, etc.) that will fit over my cast. Sigh. But the end is in sight; thank you so much for asking!

  6. Hei again Fuzz.

    My Yahoo name is a combination of my two first names and this ‘Riihele’ can be divided into two parts:
    rii ~ the two ‘i’ are pronounced like ‘me’ and
    hele ~ both the letter ‘e’ are pronounced like the first ‘e’ in Heather.

    Take care and Nitey Nite as tis very late in ere. =)

  7. Well my friend from work started writing a book and she only wrote one chapter. I tried a couple of months back to continue with it and have changed her chapter round a bit but have stopped as I am not sure what the characters should do next. I might get back to it one day who knows your blog was right it is a one day thing and isn’t a part of normal life, well not like blogging and thats easy writing for some more than others. I never know what to write there either. Ill send you the first chapter if you want a laugh! Let me kow, maybe you can give me some insperation, who knows!

  8. Is it a funny book? I’d love a laugh! I’m not good at writing fiction, I’m afraid, but I love to read and enjoy it. Huggs :))

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