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National Novel Writing Month

November 2, 2009

Being that I fancy myself a writing type--an author, as of this writing, of no repute--I tend to read some other blogs that are heavily slanted toward the writing universe, as well. Never forget, this whole thing started out as a way to keep track of my last work-in-progress and, while I've strayed from my roots vastly (TMI Thursdays, I'm looking lovingly at you...), I am still, at the core, a would-be author bitching about not being published yet (and whining about why no one likes his favorite sports teams...if you remember the original tagline of the blog).

You can imagine, then, my amazement when I came across several writing blogs where the authors of said blogs were surprised by this whole National Novel Writing Month "contest", or NaNoWriMo for short. For those who are (yet) unenlightened, let me boil this down for you: starting on November 1, take an original concept, beat on the keys of your keyboard, crank out 50,000 words revolving around your original concept on or before November 30th. That's it. The novel doesn't have to be complete (for instance, DAW books doesn't consider a book a novel unless it's at least 80,000 words...which is my low-water mark and the goal to which I shoot upon each new project), but it does have to be 50,000 words long.

Sounds nice, right? Well, there's a problem. See, I could finish a 50,000 word novel in a day. Since people are full of themselves, there are plenty of folks who voice concerns along the lines of "How do I know that your software isn't going to steal my beautifully-crafted story that I just vomited onto the screen in less than a month and sell it and make yourself rich off of it?" The answer comes in two parts: One, you're a shitty writer. Two, instead of actually counting the words you wrote, the program converts the words you submit to the counter into some unintelligible garbage. In other words, something like "To be or not to be, that is the question" turns into "Forks must be a difficult place for you to live." This little switcheroo protects the author from having his or her work stolen while validating that they did, actually, get to at least 50,000 words.

My patented method for achieving NaNoWriMo success? Write the word "blah". Copy. Paste. Repeat. Run the word count software until you hit 50,001. Save. Submit. Rub everyone else's noses in the fact that you wrote a 50,000 word novel in about thirty minutes. Post the award on your site. Masturbate over how fucking awesome you are.

Yes, I've done NaNoWriMo two and a half times. Twice, I succeeded in achieving the mystical 50,000 word plateau (actually, one year it was 57,000, another, 65,000). The third year I was doing it, I got to 29,000 words and said to myself, "What the fuck am I doing? I hate this story, I hate the idea that I have to write this shit, and for what? A stupid little picture of a squirrel (or whatever it was) to put on my geocities site? What a waste of time." Instead, I took my time and wrote a very good story filled with likable characters and a compelling plotline that I enjoyed writing. Clearly, NaNoWriMo is not for me, at least not now. If you'll allow me a bit of self-indulgence...NaNoWriMo was beneficial when I wasn't as good a writer. I've matured past that, though. Validation isn't a .pdf of a writing award or a button I can hang on the sidebar of my site. Validation is people telling me that they liked my story, of coming back and reading it again, of maybe getting that coveted writing contract.

I'm not going to do NaNoWriMo ever again. However, I am going to write 50,000 words this month in my current work. This is mostly just a way of forcing me to get my act together, shut down the Civ III for a while, and actually put some meaningful work into my current manuscript. Instead of logging into a site and recording my progress there, I'll do it here (the NaNoWriMo word count bar is pretty fucking fabulous, I will say). And, when I get to 50,000 words, I'll finally tell you what the story is about other than hinting at it being a story set in Ancient Greece.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go masturbate over how fucking awesome I am.


Lindsey Himmler said...

There's plenty of us that "cheat" on Nanowrimo. Last year, I wrote 50,000 words on two different things. However, I did finish a rough draft I think has potential, and started an idea that I still enjoy but needed more research. It's helpful for me, but I also understand people who don't get into it.

Travis said...

Geez. You kept it real. It's a good thing I wear steal toe shoes...

But yeah, I'm doing it because it forces me to get past chapter two, and I also am not a very experienced writer.

Can I get a good luck? I might even take my button of the side bar...


adrienzgirl said...

@travis, don't let jenks embarrass you into taking down your button. you committed to it, own it you vajay!

And you, Mr. Arrogance, don't hate on the little people who aren't as "mature" aka "old" as you are!

I kid..I think what I like about the whole thing is almost everyone I know who is serious about writing, uses this time whether actually doing the NaNoWrite commitment or not, as a shot in the butt to get things moving in the write direction.

carissajaded said...

Yay! I'm glad we get to witness your "however many words" you have to do rather than some counter. I have seen this acronym around, and really didn't understand what that mumbo jumbo was, until recently... But you have explained it even better. As much as I would like to improve on my writing, I'm pretty sure I would cheat as well... and I have issues with commitment.

Ed Adams said...

Write it yourself, then publish it yourself.

You don't need some contest and don't need some company.

Don't be a pussy.

Eric said...

Ancient Greece? Carry on with the celebrations of awesomeness then...

Scope said...

=RAND(200) in Word 2003 gets you 9000 words.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

JenJen said...

Couple things
1) the reasoning that you read more literary blogs must be why you don't visit mine often.
2) Thank you for enlightening me as I was unaware what Nonowrimo stood for. Interesting. I think I'll just stick to me and my flash drive and masturbate about how fucking awesome I am.

Logical Libby said...

Long time stalker, first time writer, couldn't help myself after you told all would be writers that their work "sucks."

No one should ever write a novel just because everyone else is. That's how we end up with literary classics like "Marley and Me."

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

Yeah, I've done nanowrimo a couple of times but never made it to the 50grand mark, pretty much for the same reasons you stated. I already know I can write 50,000 words, I don't need a deadline. I'd rather write something that might have some potential, rather than just drivel for a month. That's what my blog is for.

That Baldy Fella said...

I was planning on doing this, purely as a way to kickstart myself into doing something and using it a self-imposed deadline. However, I've realised that with two family events (including my Bro's wedding for which I have a speech to prepare), a house move and a 7-day stint at work, November has turned out to be the worst month possible for it. Maybe in the New Year (and so the procrastination begins...)

Cool as Folk said...

I heard about NaNoWriMo for the first time today in class. Imagine my surprise when I saw your post topic.

In related news, your patented method is hilarious. I wish my essays consisted of 7 pages of "blah"s. Well. Essentially, they do.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Lindsey: I guess I cheated on my first NaNoWriMo story in that I came up with the idea prior to November 1. The second time was an off-shoot of another, bigger story. So, I guess that was cheating, too.

@ Travis: Dude, stop being a pussy and just some shit, already.

I only feel justified in saying that because Adrienzgirl said the same thing a few minutes later. And, good luck.

@ adrienzgirl: I think it's a better unprocrastinationinator than a valuable writing tool. I think trying to cram too much story into too little time leaves you with insipid characters and leaves the door open for very large plotholes that will never be filled. And I hate plotholes.

@ carissajaded: Yeah, it just isn't for me. Not anymore. I've gleaned all I can from it. That's not to say that someone else can't. Maybe it will help you address those commitment issues. I dunno. I do know that I finally pushed past the hexameter deal that had blocked me up until recently, and that's probably a good thing. I guess. I ramble.

@ Ed Adams: See, I've thought about that. But, I'm also a little bit familiar with the book industry, and I know that in order to sell copies of the book, you've got to do a lot of work. Plus, I can't really afford to do the pay-to-play method that most self-publishers want.

@ Eric: Yeah, and when I mean ancient, I mean pre-Alexandrian. I keep having to remind myself "these people didn't have steel yet...cut it out" when talking about armor and weapons.

They did, however, have silver...

@ Scope: Yeah, but blah is only four letters, and then you keep hitting ctrl-v over and again. If possible, my way is even lazier than yours.

@ Jenjen: 1) Or, you know, it could be that whole "I'm writing a book" thing that I just blogged and 2) with a flash drive? Kinky.

@ Logical Libby: Bullcrap, you've commented at least once before.

And, I didn't say that your writing is shit, unless you're one of those people who concern themselves more with who is trying to steal your creation than the actual creation itself. I've found that, in my vast adventures online, those who worry themselves overmuch with having their works stolen don't know much about plagiarism laws and also don't really have anything worth stealing.

@ Tennyson ee Hemingway: Exactly my point. I get nothing out of a so-called community of people all sitting around hammering away at a keyboard in order to vomit a story onto the screen so they can feel better about themselves. That's just not for me. I'd rather take pride in a well-crafted story. That's just how I work.

@ Baldy Fellow: Seriously? You can't put that procrastination thing off a little longer? Ha! I made a funny!

@ Cool as Folk: You might be interested in this classic Calvin & Hobbes comic about writing. It came up a lot yesterday in my image searches, but I just couldn't work it in.

A lot of my papers in college were just "blah" for seven pages or whatever, as well. The only one I was proud of was my physical chemistry lab report wherein I detailed the relative heights of various liquors based on their alcohol contents.

otherworldlyone said...

You never cease to amaze me...

snowelf said...

Mjenks, I agree with you a lot in this post even though I feel like a hypocrite since I am actually playing with the NaNoWriMo kids this month. I'm not really doing it for any other reason besides for myself though. (I'm all about the selfish writing and shit.) I have no desire to get anything of my own published, I just like to write cause it's fun for me. Anyone who wants to read it can, but since I'm writing fast and not carefully, I don't expect to come up with any kind of literary masterpiece worthy of publishing or anything. I feel like this isn't the idea way to write something you want to eventually get published as a lot of novels need more than one revision. I'm probably wrong, but it's just my take on it.


Nej said...

Besides spewing out some random dribble about my life in the form of blog posts, I haven't tried to write a story since junior high.

You'd never know it when looking at my writing "style," but when I was in high school....grammar and sentence structure actually kept my interest. I studied it, paid attention in class. The works.

Now I just write as a stream of thought. To hell with being proper!!!! :-)

So.....kudos and props to you for being able to write a novel(s). I call it an impressive characteristic.