nanowrimo ’09, or top 5 reasons you should sign up

by Valerie

in nanowrimo,things I like

Well friends, you may recall how excited I was for nanowrimo last year, and this year is no different. I had such a good time in ’08 that I knew I would try again. Plus, this time around I don’t have a day job, so I *really* don’t have an excuse not to do it! I signed up officially a few days ago. None of you actually have an excuse, but we’ll get to that later…

For those of you not following along at home, nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, in which participants write a novel during the month of November [insert cries of outrage and disbelief, and dismissive scoffs that great writing cannot be timed]. There are only 2 rules to nanowrimo: you have to write from November 1 to November 30, and you have to write at least 50,000 words to “win.” There is no prize besides a PDF certificate and your personal satisfaction. You can write anything you like: fiction, non-fiction, memoir, scripts, screenplays, whatevs. Nobody expects what you write to be ready for publishing on December 1, it is *supposed* to be a rough draft. For me, it’s all about the exercise. Nobody will probably ever see my manuscripts except my Mom and any curious friends.

Last year my story was, for lack of a better definition, “literary fiction.” I had no idea what that meant really, until I started browsing the nanowrimo forums last October. My ’08 story was a collection of nine stories, each starring a different woman with various types of identity issues. All nine stories connected and were related, but could also stand alone. There wasn’t any plot to speak of…each of them were simply going through their daily lives and dealing with everyday happenings at work and at home. My title was “Nine Times I Was Inappropriately Dressed.” In each of the stories my heroines had a defining moment in which they learned something critical about themselves, while also being inappropriately dressed. The clothing had nothing to do with the epiphanies, it was just a theme I came up with. I “won” last year with just over 50,000 words, but none of my 9 stories were finished, alas.

Which brings me to 2009! My original plan was to continue “Nine Times,” and really flesh out my characters and see what happens to all of them. But I really, really want to try writing fantasy, because I love reading (good) fantasy. And just the other day I had a bit of a brainstorm, and the more I think about my brainstorm, the more I think I want to try it out, even though this time I’ll have to come up with a plot, because self-exploration alone cannot carry a fantasy story! We shall see. I might not decide until 11:55 pm October 31!

Just like last year, I’ve been trying to coerce all those around me to join in the madness. I have absolutely no qualms about bullying my friends in general, and so to follow in that vein, I present to you:

the top five reasons you should do nanowrimo ’09 (or any/every year)

1. Because I’m doing it. You know I would never lead you astray when it comes to creative endeavors, don’t you? Of course you do! I had so much fun doing it last year and I *know* you will too! You can trust me on that, because I in no way consider myself “a writer,” nor have I ever wanted to be “a writer,” so this is nothing like me trying to convince you to start sewing. You know your friend the runner? Who is always trying to tell you how great running is even though you totally know it’s not? This is nothing like that. Nanowrimo really is awesome. Do it!

2. Because your inner editor needs to shut up. The point of nanowrimo is to create without restraint. The strict deadline, combined with a just-out-of-reach/seemingly impossible word count goal, is designed to force you to write without editing. If you have to write nearly 1,700 words in a day, there is no time to agonize over every single sentence and turning the “perfect” phrase every time! Being a slave to one’s “inner editor” is a pitfall for everyone, not just writers. That little voice who is always telling you not to try something new because you don’t “know how”? Or because you’re “not prepared” or “don’t have time”? That’s your inner editor. Learning how to tell her to shut the hell up will help you do a lot of things better and easier, I promise. Nanowrimo locks your inner editor in a deep, dark dungeon and doesn’t let her out until December 1. That’ll teach her who’s boss!

3. Because it’ll make you feel good. How many times a year do we get to complete a truly challenging task, and get to really enjoy a that well-earned sense of accomplishment? How many people do you know who have written a novel? Even if you’ve never ever wanted to “be a writer” (like me), you know that completing a manuscript is a pretty big deal. You think checking everything off your Saturday to-do list feels good, wait until you finish nanowrimo!

4. Because everybody’s doing it. Just FYI there are lots of professional, paid writers who participate in nanowrimo to get their first drafts done. There are lots of writing coaches and English teachers all over the country who use nanowrimo to teach their students how to turn off the urge to edit and to unleash their creativity. It’s not just crazy people like me.

5. Because Kurt Vonnegut says you should. Quoth my favorite author: “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good justification for weekly craft night as well. Thanks Kurt!

There you have it folks, five excellent reasons to just do it. You don’t have to let anybody read what you write. Don’t worry about what to write about, or the fact that you’ve never done anything like this before. Just do it!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley October 11, 2009 at 2:37 am

I'm definitely signing up. My first nano experience, but I'm super-excited about it. We'll get through this thing together!

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Valerie October 11, 2009 at 11:33 am

Hooray! Ashley, I'm so glad to hear that. I bet you're going to love it, and become addicted to it, just like me! Good luck.

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Ashley October 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I can't believe how excited I am already! Tomorrow I'm going to a NaNo class that is being offered locally (which is what really prompted me to do it). I took it as a sign. It's going to be intense with everything that's going on next month, but the book says that's part of what makes it so much fun. Feel free to follow my blog as well.

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alice hive October 17, 2009 at 7:23 pm

You're absolutely right! Everybody who likes writing should try NaNoWriMo. It's an amazing experience!

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Valerie October 18, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Alice, I am doing my best to twist the arm of everybody I come in contact with!

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Shelby October 31, 2009 at 11:56 am

Kurt who?! well, I'm doing the nanowrimo this year for the first time.. I like your reasons.

so excited!!!

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Valerie October 31, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Shelby – best of luck this year, I just know you'll be hooked from now on! If you haven't read any Kurt Vonnegut, I highly recommend Slaughterhouse-Five and Bluebeard. My other favorite is Slapstick…good stuff. Enjoy your noveling!

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