Nanoo Nanoo

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in Arts, Blog | 0 comments

That’s the first thing I thought when I heard the term “NaNoWriMo” (if you’ve never seen the series “Mork and Mindy” you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about). NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a program that utilizes the entire month of November to put a little structure behind the daunting task of writing your own novel. My stepdaughter, Camille, participated last year and, week after week, I got to watch her write to her heart’s content, fulfilling the 50,000 word goal without breaking a sweat. As a former English major, I was intrigued and vowed that when November came around again, I would jump into the fray with her.

After a loving, electronic prod on October 31st, I was on the NaNoWriMo website exploring the possibilities. I have to hand it to the Office of Letters and Light, the brainchildren of this program, they’ve created a comprehensive space for the writer in anyone. After registering and creating a profile, a word count is unlocked for each participant. Every day of writing, whether it is in a Word document, on paper, or on the back of a shovel with a charcoaled stick, is tracked for word count and updated on your NaNoWriMo profile. Every time you update your word count, you are given statistics of the progress that will lead to your success.

None of the novel is written on the site as that would turn even the heartiest cloud server into a lead balloon. But when the final week of November comes, participants are allowed to load their novels onto the site so that checkers can verify word count and your status as a NaNoWriMo “winner.” One of my biggest concerns going into this was, “how do I prevent someone from running off with my brilliant thoughts?” The answer lies within instructions given to scramble word order (if you are using a Word document) so what you’re posting to the site is a bunch of gibberish. Also, once word count is verified, the novel is erased from their records.

My freshman attempt was varied. If I was to make goal by November 31st, I had to write a little over 1,600 words a day. On day 2, I had already written myself into a logistical corner, so I decided to start again and go the memoir route. As I was making up for lost time, I was keenly aware that time was something I fell short of often. This is something the creators of NaNoWriMo anticipate, so they begin to send pep talks through different members of their staff. Each email is its own little jewel as encouragement is well balanced with funny anecdotes and tips for survival. All day writing sessions in local libraries and independent bookstores are also available if cramming is more your style then good pacing.

Despite their best efforts, I found myself woefully behind again and again. Halfway through the month, I had barely scratched 8,000 words and was starting to sweat. In the meantime, Camille was closing in on her 50,000 words and shooting for 75,000. As our profiles were connected as “writing buddies,” I could watch her meteor-like progress and simply gape in amazement (I love watching her mind at work). It was around this time that I had my zen moment about this experience. Why was I sucking the fun out of this for myself? The whole point of the program was to be given a space to flex creatively (and some of my sentence structures were definitely creative). In the end, the prize for your efforts was that you had a body of work that you could tweak to your heart’s content and be proud of.

So I kept writing from that standpoint and by the time the program was over I had written close to 16,500 words. Even though I hadn’t hit the 50,000-word goal, I felt good about the whole experience in general. I like how the program was put together; that there was so much support to keep participants going. I liked the community built during the experience through online forums. And I liked that the prize at the end of the program was one of your own making. There were so many other things that I didn’t even scratch such as cartoons, word count widgets and special offers from organizations that supported NaNoWriMo.

I may never crank out the “Great American Novel,” but I’m glad that this kind of a space exists for well-intentioned novices like me. There are other programs offered for both young writers and adults by the creators of NaNoWriMo and if you want to take a peek, click here. Until I return next November, I will be content with my renewed appreciation for blogging and the opportunity to brainstorm more fictitious works. Here’s to the creative process and the space created for them!

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