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Participating in National Novel Writing Month
It’s November 15th, a Saturday night. Instead of hanging out with friends, like most teens, I’m at home, and I’m listening to music on a minimized computer screen. The other screen is a word processor containing my novel.
Hold it; the music screeches to a stop. A novel? Yes, a novel. I’m one of 115,663 people participating in a free international contest called National Novel Writing Month, and the number of participants is always increasing.
National Novel Writing Month began as a contest between freelance writer, Chris Baty, and twenty of his friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, July of 1999. The rules have changed from that first year, and the number of participants has exploded, but it’s the tenth anniversary of the contest, and the basic concept still remains the same. Write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The rules do get a bit more defined from there. The novel cannot be a previous work in progress. It must be fiction. Don’t start before November. Once the clock strikes midnight, and your computer calendar switches to December, you must have sent your novel (which can be scrambled for security reasons) into the website for their word counter to validate it.
Why would someone attempt such a crazy feat? What incredible prize do winners get? A print out certificate and a web badge. How is it worth it?
When I first signed up for this crazy, wild contest, I rolled my eyes a bit, too. Still, I signed up to write a novel roughly the size of Scott F. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I talked down about myself, and I told myself I’d be lucky to hit ten thousand words, let alone five times that. But I, along with over 100,000 people world wide, signed up for this contest for a simple reason. We are writers. We are the published authors, the freelance writers, the soldiers stationed in Iraq, the college students, the loving mothers, the struggling artists, the high school seniors, the freshman, the corporate officials, and more. (There is even a related site, the Young Writer’s Program, which allows students of any age to participate in a smaller version of the competition, where they set their own word count goal.) All ages, all countries, all types of writers. We are the good writers and the bad. But the fact that we are writers cannot be disputed. We hear the voices of the characters in our heads. The plots get away from us. If the story gets boring, we don’t hesitate to add a scene with zombies or explosions in, just because we can.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, tells us to worry about quantity and not quality. The published writers and the dreamers both breath a sigh of relief. The mass phenomenon of this contest, is that a slogan is No Plot? No Problem. The world of writer’s takes a deep sigh of relief, and we jump head first into this competition where perfection isn’t necessary or wanted. All you need to do is write.
I jumped into this contest, knowing I would have to write 1,667 words a day in order to reach 50,000 words by the last day of November. 1,667 words is about 500 more words than this article, to give you an idea.
I wrote 3,000 words the first night, and for the first time in a long time, I felt that my dream of being a paid writer one day wasn’t ludicrous.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for years and years, and I’ve always loved to read and write. The thing about writing that’s challenging is the inner editor, because let’s face it, all writers have one. We go over what we write, and we edit it until it sounds perfect, and we’ve written for five hours and only have four sentences to show for it. My stories were short and abandoned works in progress.
For National Novel Writing Month, I worked on a story idea I had been inspired with before, and I saw the characters come to life. I knew everything about these characters, but they knew even more, as they transformed into three dimensions. The plot developed, and instead of a bleak five page outline, I saw thirty pages of real, decent story.
Here I am, fifteen days in, and I’ve found a new confidence. The dream of being a writer for a career seems a bit more likely to be in my future. I’m approaching 25,000 words, which is more fiction than some people write in their lifetimes. The word count bar on my profile is inching up, and all over the website, people are shouting out their word counts. Some never pass 1,000, but many pass 50,000, and some are aiming for a million words this month. Don’t be mistaken, the winners are usually less than half the number of participants. You can’t do it if you don’t try though, and that’s what every one of the signs ups is- someone taking that first step. The writing could be bad, and probably will be, but we‘re all writing. That‘s what matters.
The dream seems closer, but if there is one thing writing every day for the last 15 days has taught me, it’s that no matter what, I will always be a writer. The characters are calling to me, and the plot is changing everyday. Whether I go to college for writing, and I can find my novel next to the classics in a bookstore, or whether I’m never published, I will always, always be a writer. It’s a part of me, and NaNoWriMo has shown me that, along with thousands upon thousands who are participating.
There are forums on the website, where everyone encourages each other. It is because of these forums, that I know what they would think if they read this article. Why are you working on something unrelated to your novel? Focus! Get writing! Only 15 days left! No procrastinating!
My characters are feeling neglected, and my plot wants some attention. 15 days left, and I’ve found a new part of myself. This is the most I’ve ever written, and it’s not done yet. The word count on NaNoWriMo.org reads 728,240,986 words overall this year. Within the next two hours or so, I hope to add to that.
The halfway mark is approaching, and I’ve already reached the height of my writing confidence. Who knows what I’ll discover in the next 15 days? I may reach The End, but NaNoWriMo will call to me next November. This story will end eventually, but there are always more to tell. Next November 1st, 100,000 more participants will begin to write them.
Who’s joining us?