Starting Nov. 1, hundreds of thousands of writers across the nation will retreat to their writing caves and won't emerge again until the end of November. This writing phenomenon is called NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.
What exactly is NaNoWriMo?
From the website: "National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel."
Here’s a little history on how National Novel Writing Month began.
NaNoWriMo was founded by Chris Baty in July 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area, with only 21 participants. The goal of 50,000 words was set after Baty grabbed the shortest novel on his bookshelf ("Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley) and did a rough word count. Only 6 of those 21 participants completed the challenge. But doing NaNo in July proved too difficult due to the gorgeous weather outside. So after 1999, NaNo was changed to November to take advantage of the miserable weather.
- The first official year of NaNoWriMo was in 2000, when the event had an actual website.
- By 2001, 5000 people signed up.
- In 2014, 175,002 people signed up, and 40,325 crossed the finish line with 50K.
So why was 50,000 words the magic number? This seemed like a difficult, yet not impossible amount of words, and the length makes it a short novel, about 175 pages.
Other novels that are 50K:
– "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
– "Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck
– "Fahrenheit 451," by Ray Bradbury
– "The Notebook," by Nicholas Sparks
Several bestselling novels that were first written during NaNoWriMo:
- "Water for Elephants," by Sara Gruen
- "The Night Circus," by Erin Morgenstern
- "Wool," by Hugh Howey
- "Cinder," by Marissa Meyer
11 Tips to WIN NaNoWriMo
(Disclaimer: Winning NaNoWriMo basically means you have written 50,000 words or more before the deadline on November 30. Biggest prize is being able to call yourself a novelist. And the sponsors will kick in a few discounts and freebies to those who cross the finish line. But there is no competition here. The novel doesn’t even need to be good. Anyone can “win” just by writing 50,000 words.)
1. Plotting is better than pantsing.
This is controversial, as there are many pantsers out there who are probably reading this and ready to click away. But hear me out. First of all, let me explain what plotters and pantsers are. Plotters are the people who come up with a plan, any plan, before sitting down to type. Pantsers are the people who sit down on Nov. 1 with no plan at all, or maybe just an idea of what to write, but nothing else. They plot as they type.
Here’s my argument for plotting. Sitting down with your computer or notebook on Nov. 1, things are going to go much smoother if you have a plan. You can start with anything from a rough idea to a detailed play-by-play outline. Things may change along the way, and you can adjust your outline to reflect that. But things will go much smoother if you start out with a plan than it will if you start out staring at a blank page.
Poetry at Paradise
What: ‘Poetry Relections’ with Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate
When: 1-3 p.m. Sunday, July 16
Where: Paradise Ridge Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa
Admission: Free, but please register in advance at eventbrite.com
Cruising With The Beach Boys
So strange to hear that song again tonight
Traveling on business in a rented car
Miles from anywhere I’ve been before.
And now a tune I haven’t heard for years
Probably not since it last left the charts
Back in L.A. in 1969.
I can’t believe I know the words by heart
And can’t think of a girl to blame them on.
Every lovesick summer has its song,
And this one I pretended to despise,
But if I was alone when it came on,
I turned it up full-blast to sing along—
A primal scream in croaky baritone,
The notes all flat, the lyrics mostly slurred.
No wonder I spent so much time alone
Making the rounds in Dad’s old Thunderbird.
Some nights I drove down to the beach to park
And walk along the railings of the pier.
The water down below was cold and dark,
The waves monotonous against the shore.
The darkness and the mist, the midnight sea,
The flickering lights reflected from the city —
A perfect setting for a boy like me,
The Cecil B. DeMille of my self-pity.
I thought by now I’d left those nights behind,
Lost like the girls that I could never get,
Gone with the years, junked with the old T-Bird.
But one old song, a stretch of empty road,
Can open up a door and let them fall
Tumbling like boxes from a dusty shelf,
Tightening my throat for no reason at all
Bringing on tears shed only for myself.
— Dana Gioia
(From “99 Poems: New & Selected,” by Dana Gioia.)