Wednesday, October 31, 2007

my november novel

Nothing to do with Halloween, but the last day of October is a worrying moment. For November is Nanowrimo month!

"NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a creative writing project originating in the United States in which each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. Despite the name, the project is now international in scope" states their Wikipedia entry.

If you've ever done a Creative Writing course, you'll find the idea of National Novel Writing Month a bit startling. For here the emphasis is on quantity not quality. Can you write a 50,000 word short novel in four weeks? That's about the length of a slim paperback novel. (Not one of those thick blockbusters you buy at the airport.)

The term "winner" is a bit misleading here - this isn't a contest and there aren't actually any prizes. Chris Baty of San Francisco started the whole thing in 1999 with 21 participants. From there, it's gone from strength to strength - nearly 80,000 participants registered in 2006, with almost 13,000 completing their novels (word total for all participants in 2006 was 982,564,701!)

Participants need to write an average of 1,667 words per day, which is about two and a half pages, single-spaced, in a 12 pt font. Now I am a trained touch typist and I could type that standing on my head. But actually creating a story as you type at that speed? That brings some of us out in a cold sweat.

I've taken part in it the last two years with mixed results. The first year I actually made it with a day to spare, which was just as well. I hadn't realised that different word-processors count words differently; my science fiction novel "Scorched by Darkness" was just under the 50,000 mark and I had to add a few more pages.

It was tiring but a satisfying experience.

The following year I ran into problems. I started off writing what I thought was a horror novel in the Stephen King mode and bogged down at the end of the first week because I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Eventually I decided what I was actually writing was a psychological thriller set in the television industry and it flowed along fairly well from there. Unfortunately I never made up the time I lost and in the end I missed the deadline by about two hours.

Nevertheless, I have a certain fondness for the resulting story "Carlton Marsden is dead"

So tomorrow I have to begin on my novel for this year. Two weeks ago I was worried about this, firstly because I didn't know if I was physically strong enough to do it, and secondly I didn't know what I was going to write about yet!

But the human mind is an amazing thing. Slowly the germ of a plot began to form and some characters came forward to volunteer. While I was shaving one morning I came up with the title - "Bernie Thompson's Unicorn is Missing" - and when I was walking the dog last night I thought of the whole first page.

And no, it's not a real unicorn. But it does play a vital part in the plot.

Wish me luck as I sit down at the keyboard at midnight tonight.


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