I’m late to the game for this year, but next November NaNoWriMo is going on my calendar; what a wonderful thing! I had heard about it via Dan Ward’s blog, and from Rich Griffith. You go guys! I’m rooting for you!
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
How can you resist?
With my Ho‘ohana on parenting on the brain, when I poked around the NaNoWriMo site, this page caught my eye: It’s a fabulous Letter to Parents:
It’s among a parent’s worst nightmares. A child comes home and declares that he or she wants to write a novel in November. You’re asking yourself where you went wrong in raising a child who would want to attempt such a foolish feat. After all, the National Novel Writing Month website specifically says that participants aim for quantity, not quality. A rushed and sloppy novel may be the last thing you want to encourage your child to create.
But there are many great reasons to embrace your child’s literary leanings (and maybe even give NaNoWriMo a shot yourself!).
Click in to read those reasons why. Good stuff.
“How long did it take you to write it?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I get about Managing with Aloha, and if you take my answer as an example, the focus that NaNoWriMo encourages does work.
I wrote MWA in three months. I used to say “only” three months, but these days that seems like a long time. Those three months were then followed by another six months of rewrite, edit, and edit again. I dreaded each time I’d send my manuscript to my agent/editor, for I knew it would come back with his pencil marks starting my rewrite process all over again. Pencil marks from an editor are just as bad as those ones in red pen you got from your grammar teacher in grade school; the pencil doesn’t take that edge off. However I knew he’d be right, him and his pencil, and I’d diligently rewrite and edit it again. And again. That day when he agreed that I was truly done was a taste of pure heaven.
However the heart and soul of what defined Managing with Aloha happened in those first three months writing. They were months in which I lived the writer’s literary life, that is, my version of it: Up at 5am, walk for two hours to get that “mind like water” where the next chapter would come to me, either flowing gently or in raging waves. It was summer, and I’d return to work in my garden for another hour with the early sun beating down on me, serving to evaporate the clutter in my brain at the same time. Sweaty and garden grubby I’d hit the shower, then sit down at my computer keyboard and write, write, write, getting every single thought out of my head and onto the page.
In the afternoon I cleaned, purging my house of the neglect it suffered during my corporate career the years before. The cleaning seemed to help me edit, for in the late afternoon I’d sit to read what I’d written that morning and the extra words which can litter early drafts were easily crossed out and disposed of so the better ones could take their rightful place.
I wasn’t working on my business at all for those three months, just writing. And I loved it.
I’ve done a lot more writing since then, but not on another book. Oh I’ve tried, however it hasn’t worked for me in this mixed bag life of work plus writing, and I know that my next book will come when I manage to return to that literary life I was leading. During that time I suspect the blogging will have to go on hiatus too. Maybe not.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King says he’d written one of his books in only a week’s time (yep, “only” definitely applies here). The book was The Running Man. On why he’s no longer that fast he writes,
I think it was quitting smoking that slowed me down; nicotine is a great synapse enhancer. The problem, of course, is that it’s killing you at the same time it’s helping you compose. Still, I believe that the first draft of a book —even a long one— should take no more than three months, the length of a season. Any longer and —for me at least— the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel, like a dispatch from the Romanian Department of Public Affairs, or something broadcast on high-band shortwave during a period of severe sunspot activity.
The length of a season. Hmm. My ho‘omaha is coming. Why wait for NaNoWriMo for another whole year?