For those of you who believe you have the next Great American Novel inside, or have a hate-spot for hokey acronyms, this event might make you want to bang your head repeatedly on your IKEA computer desk: November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.
The challenge: Write a 175-page or 50,000-word novel that you begin on Nov. 1 and end at midnight on Nov. 30. The goal: quantity not quality. Participants are encouraged to simply write. And write. And write.
The NaNoWriMo people have a thorough Web site to guide you through the process. It's easy to sign up, create a profile, keep track of your word count and even get sponsors, making it a kind of Write-A-Thon. And the list of FAQs shows they've predicted any questions you may have, even if they pop in your head at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning when you're 37,654 words in and realize you forgot to ask if you can scramble your novel before sending it in to avoid some hack(er) getting ahold of your work.
Once you sign up, it's also easy to get in touch with other nut jobs, er, WriMo-ers for support, both electronically and in person. Writers can come together to talk about obstacles and successes, all the while gaining a sense of camaraderie. Treasure Valley transcribers will gather at A Novel Adventure on Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-noon and at Rediscovered Bookshop on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. for the adults and Sundays from 1-2:30 p.m. for the kids. For more information on local gatherings, you can e-mail Megan Justice, the Boise liaison at email@example.com.
Again, NaNoWriMo isn't about writing a piece of prose that critics will compare to Hemingway. The point is, again, to simply write. And to win. Believe it or not, no one actually reads any of the entries. Word counts are verified by computer. Like in a grade-school sack race, everyone who finishes is a winner. In 2008, more than 119,000 writers participated and more than 21,000 won.
It may sound like an insurmountable task, but it's not. You may begin the contest with an outline or plot ideas, but writing in advance is not only against the rules, it circumvents the point of the challenge. The ultimate goal is not to write well, but to let go of any preconceived notions of what a novel should be, any convictions you have that the next Harry Potter series is at the tips of your fingers, and just write.
Have we made that point clear yet?
Visit nanowrimo.org for more information.