Ah, November in Port Aransas. Most Port Aransans are preparing for big Thanksgiving Day dinners, building Christmas gift lists, planning holiday celebrations and possibly turning on the heat instead of the air conditioning for the first time since last winter.
But for us writerly types, the month of November has an entire different significance. It’s NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words (about 175 pages) between Nov. 1 and 11:59:59 p.m. on Nov. 30. The novel can be any genre, in any language. There is no prize for winning, except for bragging rights. In fact, you have to buy your own “Winner” T-shirt. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the novel will ever be published. A NaNoWriMo novel isn’t even long enough to interest most publishers. Although there have been successful novels that are roughly 50,000 words long, most commercial novels run from 65,000 to 100,000 words or more. So why do it? For many people who have always wanted to write a novel, NaNoWriMo is the kick in the pants they need to get going. The community that grows around the effort gives encouragement and the deadline provides motivation to keep going. For many, it’s such a satisfying experience that they participate every year.
NaNoWriMo is organized by the Office of Letters and Light to encourage creativity. The OLL, a 501©(3) non –profit organization, also organizes Script Frenzy in April, the Young Writers Program for K-12 students and now Camp NaNoWriMo, another writing marathon that takes place in the summer.
The first NaNoWriMo was held in July, 1999. Twenty-one writers in the San Francisco Bay area participated. The following year, the challenge was moved to November to “more fully take advantage of the miserable weather” in that area, according to founding organizer Chris Baty. Last year, there were over 200,000 participants from around the world. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline.
And yes, I was one of them. I wrote 50,062 words in 30 days. I got there by writing 1667 words, every day. Including Saturdays, Sundays and Thanksgiving Day. While running a business, authoring a blog at http://devorahfox.com AND writing the “Dee-Scoveries” column for the Island Moon.
I won’t say they were great words. I even skipped entire chapters, leaving myself virtual sticky notes that read “something happens here” and went on to write what I did know was going to happen. I met the deadline, even though I had yet to write the ending. That was perfectly OK. After all, NaNoWriMo’s slogan is “No Plot? No Problem!” The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to arrive at the finish line with a fully fashioned, perfectly crafted novel. Most NaNoWriMo writers end up what they consider to be a very robust outline. (Many go on to polish it during NaNoEdMo — National Novel Editing Month — which isn’t an official project of the Office of Letters and Light but rather something that’s informally organized by writers’ groups around the country.)
OLL hosts the NaNoWriMo Web site that handles registrations for the event which is free to participants. The Web site offers a variety of forums to provide encouragement and to help brainstorm plot twists and features “NaNoToons” to elicit some much-needed chuckles. It also has the word count validator that gives an impartial validation as to whether the 50,000 word requirement has been met. The Web site is funded by donations, advertising and the sale of NaNoWriMo merchandise.
Local support groups tend to form around NaNoWriMo led by “Municipal Liaisons.” The year, the area’s group is led by veteran volunteer Gloria Vasquez (on the right) and her new co-ML Claire Percer (on the left). Gloria and Claire organized a kick-off party to get participants going, hold weekly “meet ups” to keep everyone going and put on a “Thank God It’s Over” party to celebrate successes and share novels.
After NaNoWriMo 2010, the local group of NaNoWriMo writers continued to meet, formed the CCTXWritersGroup and even launched a Web site of its own.
For more information about NaNoWriMo, visit the Web site at www.nanowrimo.org. To find out about the CCTXWritersGroup Writers Group, visit http://cctxwritersgroup.proboards.com/. Or come to the CoffeeWaves at 5738 South Alameda Street, Corpus Christi, at noon every Saturday during NaNoWriMo in November and at noon the first Saturday of the month during the rest of the year. I’ll see you there.