Sweating it out at NaNoWriMo

You may not be aware that you only have 18 odd days (as of now) to make it through NaNoWriMo 2016. NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is an international “seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing.”  If you join this marathon, you undertake to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. If you read this today, you’re running out of time.

According to Wikipedia, “101,767 writers participated in 2016, yielding 15,335 reported winners. Participants wrote 1,187,931,929 words in 2016.” The NaNoLantern, was lit on 31 October or All Novels Eve2016. Forget planning, research, preparation or inspiration, NaNoWriMo is dedicated to output, the fact that writers have only a month to produce a full-size novel forces them to adopt the so-called kamikaze approach – a creative attitude that “forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.” Once registered, writers can upload their in-process-novels and use word counters to register their progress (right now the counters registered a total of 491,333,222 words.) Professional authors are on hand to encourage, support, offer ideas and exchange tips and pep talks and the NaNoWriMo blog provides writers with real time support.

Far from being a quirky event, NaNoWriMo spearheads a wave of projects and applications designed to assist people to overcome difficulties associated withwriting a full-length novel. The project is surrounded by fascinating characters who provide various facilities, services and applications aimed at helping participating-authors to produce a magnum opus in 30 days. One of these characters is Dr. Wicked, who runs a Writing Lab and offers an online assertive (and quite often, aggressive) author-prodding machine under the intriguing strapline “Write Or Die: Putting the “Prod” in Productivity!

“Write or Die”, says The Doctor, “is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.” Consequences depend on the writing mode one chooses (three modes are available: Gentle, Normal and Kamikaze.)

Answering the question whether NaNoWriMo stories belong to a specific literary genre, NaNoWriMo founder and director Chris Baty believes, tongue in cheek, that: “it looks like everyone is writing vaguely autobiographical, character-driven fiction about people who have just turned 30 and are still confused about what they want to be when they grow up. I’ve gotten emails from people though, asking if NaNoWriMo is only for romance writers. So I think there’s a real diversity there.” Baty has written at least 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo each year since 1999, when 21 people participated.

On 11 November, Official Participant Stryder7 was 10348 words to the good. That’s 941 words per day and a projected 28230 words for the month or heartbreakingly 21770 words short of target. The daily minimum should be 1667 words per day, meaning that only those who managed to write at least 18337 words on November 11th have a chance of making target. With an impressive 25680 on the 11th, TheUnfettered was creaming it – being half way through! NaNoWriMo offers a Young Writers Program, as well. In 2016, over 14,000 kids and teens in 366 classrooms worldwide took part in National Novel Writing Month’s Young Writers Program.

Among the ‘peptalkers‘ – established authors who are available to encourage the writers, I found the Australian Markus Zusak, who wrote that outstanding book, The Book Thief, and Ysabeau Wilce – the person behind Flora Segunda. In her short bio, Wilce says that she “was born in the City of Califa at the age of one. While her parents were on a diplomatic mission to the Huitzil Empire, she was cared for by an uncle what brought her up by hand. She attended Sanctuary School as a scholarship girl and then spent three years at the University of Califa where she took a double degree in Apotropaic Philosophy and Confabulation.”.. and there’s more.

NaNoWriMo is real – and it is here to stay. As Russ Neumeier from Wired promises “The craziness, the chaos, the frustration, and most importantly the FUN make for an unforgettable month.”

This time I’m way too late, but next year… who knows?

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