Wednesday, November 4, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

A Literary Marathon Running Thirty Days and Nights

By Sonja Patterson

“Deadlines are the most inspiring thing of all; forget lost love and people dying,” says Fran Healy, front-man of the band Travis, who plans, according to the NY Post, to end each live show on their month-long tour with a song written the previous night. Although he was referring to songwriting, his words are just as relevant to all forms of writing.

November is National Novel Writing Month and “all about the magical power of deadlines,” says founder Chris Baty. He is responsible for setting the ultimate writing deadline: Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. “NaNoWriMo,” as participants call it, started in 1999 in San Francisco and the project has since grown to a large online following. In 2008, they had over 119,000 people participate around the world (despite its name, it’s now international), and more than 21,683 of them made it to the 50k finish line.

“As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel,” says their web site.

Forcing you “to lower your expectations, take risks and write on the fly,” the quantity-over- quality-kamikaze approach seems to be working. There are plenty of success stories; a growing number of novels started there found publishers, including one New York Times #1 Bestseller! For a complete list, click here.

Writing a novel is a lot like running a marathon. A literary marathon, involving the mind and fingers, instead of the lungs and calf muscles. Wordcount functions as milemarkers. Pacing is everything, exercising your mind, testing your endurance, and proving your status as “novelist.” Writer’s block is equivalent to a fallen tree, steep hill, or fatigue. Typing “THE END” equivalent to tearing through the finish line ribbon.

If you are one of the many who say, “Someday I’m going to write a novel.” Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution, a birthday wish, or an optimistic Sunday morning. Your day—or month—has come. All writers started somewhere, so take your first step. Go write! And fine tune your manuscript at The Writer’s Center – all new workshops are listed on!

Sonja Patterson is on staff at The Writer’s Center.

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