National Novel Writing Month: Get started

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For every aspiring novelist, the hardest part is getting started. The book that has been percolating inside of you for years frustratingly just cannot seem to find its way to paper. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

In the month of November, there’s a remedy available for that struggle: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Started in 1991 by San Francisco freelance writer Chris Baty, the genesis of NaNoWriMo was decidedly unlofty: “We wanted to write novels for the same dumb reasons twentysomethings start bands,” Baty explains on the event’s Web site. “Because we wanted to make noise. Because we didn’t have anything better to do. And because we thought that, as novelists, we would have an easier time getting dates than we did as non-novelists.”

Whatever the reason people join the NaNoWriMO — to get dates or to become the next JK Rowling — the playing field has no bar to entry. Whether you have been published before or have never written anything more than a thank you note to a great aunt, the goal is the same: complete a novel in one month. Starting on November 1, each participant pledges to create a book of at least 50,000 words, which is similar in size to published works like The Great Gatsby or The Notebook.

If writing on a daily basis, that amounts to approximately 1,667 words per day, a fairly intense pace for even the most accomplished writers, and particularly daunting given that in today’s social media driven society, communication often consists of 140 words and quick acronyms (OMG! TTYL!).

One of the goals of NaNoWriMO is to give back the power of connectivity to longer form writing. As Executive Director Grant Faulkner says on the website,”NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

For many writers, it’s not just about the process; it is about creating a writing community both online and in person, a place to share your stories. To that end, there are on line forums and support groups, write-ins where you can go write collegially with other writers, and celebrations at the conclusion of the month long event.

Inspiring many writers is the prospect, of course, of creating a work that will someday be published, and NaNoWriMo lists several popular novels that have been born during 30 days of intense November writing: Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus and Karen Harrington’s Sure Signs of Crazy.

Even though NaNoWriMo is underway, it is not too late to sign up online and join the quest to write the next great novel: starting today to get to 50,000 words, you’d need to type 2,500 a day. Log on and get writing; it’s time to set the story inside of you free.