AND THEY’RE OFF!
November is National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo, for short — a month dedicated to unleashing the tumult of ideas within a writer’s imagination and giving them form. A month in which writers of all ages commit to writingtheir own 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Of course you can’t write a polished novel, ready for publication, in a month, but you can write a rough draft. The hardest thing about writing a novel is finishing the damn thing! In NaNoWriMo you commit to finishing –and leave the rewrites for the future. Participants upload their work to the website, as proof. If you finish, you get a badge. But it’s not about the badge, it’s about finishing.
Who would have known so many people are dying to write a novel? All they needed was the challenge — and one enormous support group. There’s an entire industry that has sprung up around this annual event hosted by the nonprofit organization started by freelance writer Chris Baty, in 1999. You can buy books to help you organize your 30 days and give you pointers and pep talks when the going gets tough. You can write on Wattpad, an online writers’ group — they’re even offering a cash prize based on a random drawing of finishers.
One piece of advice is to set aside an hour a day and stick to it. Make a rough outline. You don’t have to follow it, but it might keep you from getting lost. Don’t try to edit what you’ve written; just keep writing and don’t look back. Be bold! Don’t be afraid to take chances. You will write garbage, trust me. But if you write fast enough about something that matters to you, you’ll discover something worth keeping.
If you want to join this year’s wave, it’s not to late to sign up (though you’ll have to write furiously to catch up.) There aren’t too many rules. One is, it has to be a new novel, it can’t be a work in progress.
In 2007 I took part in NaNoWriMo, and I completed a novel in 30 days. It took me nearly six more years to get it ready for publication! My novel, Looking for Redfeather, has just been published by Fiction House, Ltd. (my own imprint.) This labor of love all started when I answered the challenge of National Novel Writing Month. As chaotic as that first draft was, that’s where I captured the heart and soul of the story.
Looking for Redfeather is a contemporary, coming-of-age novel. It’s the story of three runaway teenagers who meet up by chance on the road and go looking for an Apache named Redfeather. It’s a literary road trip –but it’s not Jack Kerouac’s story, and it’s not your grandfather’s road trip, though one of the teens has stolen his dead grandfather’s car.
Good luck to this year’s novel writers. Believe me, I’m drafting on your amazing energy. Keep those words coming, you only have 29 more days.