Sunday, October 12, 2008


November is National Novel Writing Month. Here is a story I published last year in my local paper with slight adjustments to include some of this year's info.

My November Checklist:
1. Order a turkey
2. Visit Plymouth Plantation
3. Write a novel
4. Clean the baseboards

Wait. You mean you don’t have writing a novel on your list?

November, in addition to being a month where we celebrate family and eating large birds, is National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo). Back in July of 1999 a group of 21 individuals embarked on the first NaNoWriMo. Six of them crossed the finish line – writing a 175 page (50,000 word) novel in 30 days. In 2006, over 79,000 people took part in the annual non-profit literary mission. Almost 13,000 of them reached the goal. While the event stresses fun and creative exploration over publication, sixteen NaNoWriMo novelists have had their NaNo-novels published, including Sarah Gruen, author of New York Times #1 Best Seller, Water for Elephants>.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, why on earth would anyone write a novel in thirty days and in November of all months? As we all learned from Issac Newton – objects in motion tend to stay in motion. You say you have one million things to do already? Perfect. Adding one more item to your list won’t seem all that daunting. Having other obligations forces you to carve out dedicated time to write. By setting aside specific hours to your novel you can finish it in one month. Do you commute? Try voice recognition software (writing and driving I don’t recommend). A SAHM? Wake-up earlier or stay-up later to get the novel done. Do your children have homework time? Guess what, you can too. Sit down at the table next to them and write. Writing 1,667 words at a time seems an impossible task? Break down your day into three 600 word sessions.

Are you a student? Good news. To reach the NaNoWriMo Young Writers goal you set your own word count. Have a favorite series? Think you can write another Lord of the Rings or Sweet Valley High? Prove it.

In 2006 I participated in my first NaNoWriMo. I started out strong. The first 14,000 words came easily; then, I hit a wall. My Great American Novel, an homage to road trips of the 1970’s, went from being a joy to being an albatross around my neck. After a fortnight of staring at a notepad, creating errands to run, and playing on-line scrabble the words finally started coming again. Even though I did not reach the 50,000 word mark I had a great time participating in NaNoWriMo and found a new respect for authors, words, and novels in general.

2007’s novel? A young adult novel in the vein of The Magic Treehouse series as well as Beast Quest and the Sister's Grimm. Two sisters are transported to different time periods. The difference - they were each literary characters and siblings. An example - one was Emily Dickinson and another her sister. One was Louisa May Alcott the other her sister. Etc. It was a good attempt - I think.

This year's novel? I'm going to work Aprons into the story. Perhaps the beginning will have a woman running out to the front lawn wringing her hands on an apron asking a neighbor, child, someone for help. "I need help. It's Herman." And then she'll start running back with whomever on the front lawn following her.

According to Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo founder, “The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not lack of talent. It’s lack of a deadline.” There is no better deadline than writing 50,000 words in 720 hours. The only prize for winner’s---bragging rights.

Because writing 50,000 words is a great way to exercise your imagination. When writing quantity over quality you actually wind up with both. And really, what better excuse to get out of Thanksgiving clean-up than “Sorry, I’m writing a novel.”

If you are interested in taking part in a non-profit literary adventure visit the NaNoWriMo website,, where you can read more about the event as well as sign-up (it’s free). Become a November Novelist. At least be nice to the novelist’s you meet or else you may wind up in a novel.


SuperMomdel said...

Hey, Beth,

I created my NaNoWriMo account a few days ago. I've always wanted to do it, and am finally going to commit!


Amy said...

OK, I admit it--that sounds like fun. I really want to check it out, but I may chicken out! thanks for the heads up!

Keri said...

I love Plymouth Plantation!

It's nice to meet another New England crafter/blogger! I lived in MA until I got married last year. Now I'm a Rhode Islander.


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