"Writing itself becomes the subject of the writing course..."

 — Michael Carter       

What are You Doing for Nanowrimo?

November 2nd, 2015 by

“What will you be writing for Nanowrimo this year?” the email asked.

The question caused my heart beat to quicken. I hadn’t been thinking about it, but now suddenly I was. The email made me feel that by getting started on my writing I would be part of the advent of a new holiday.

Nanowrimo is the name of a writer’s organization and event that occurs every November. The name is created from blending four words into one, National Novel Writing Month. The goal for everyone who participates in Nanowrimo is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. People all over the country—well, writers all over the country—gather in coffee shops to type and count their words as they inch toward the goal.

50,000 Words in 30 Days?
Why November, some might rightly ask. Why not just do it alone during any month you might choose?

Nanowrimo enthusiasts would probably respond to this by stating that it is the national quality of the call that makes it feel like light being shed on a sometimes sad and lonely past-time.

Some critics have also argued that Nanowrimor encourages sloppy writing. If the only goal is to write 50,000 words, and they don’t have to be good words, then this isn’t really doing good writing.

It is probably 90% true that this month isn’t going to lead to many polished drafts. But the enthusiasts also see this as beside the point. After all, it does lead to writing regularly. So argues Gene Luen Yang, a prolific graphic novelist and comic book artist, and one of the writers featured on the Nanowrimo site, who has the following to say:

“When you write a novel, you’re not just working on the novel itself. You’re also working on the novel-building factory: your life. You have to create a life that is conducive to writing… By being a part of NaNoWriMo, you’re setting aside a month to make a state-of-the-art, novel-building factory.”

It is as important to work on the “novel-building factory” that will serve you year round as it is to come up with a finished product.

Becoming a Novel-Writing Factory
This year, I’ve decided to start building my novel factory, though I’m technically not really writing a novel. I am writing a satirical self-help book. I am calling it “The Last Self-Help Book.”

So far, it has been great fun, and I am way ahead in the word count, which will be very important later in the month when I have student papers to read.

I hope my nonfiction goes undetected. But if it doesn’t, I’ve set it up on my main page as a novel. For the info I gave Nanowrimo, my “novel” sounds like this:

“A man trying to break into publishing is bitter that his literary works have been ignored by religious publishers busy churning out cheap and easy self-help books written by people who have no expertise in what they are talking about, and worse, no real insight into human nature. He writes his own self-help book and becomes a literary sensation.”

This may not fool anyone, but it does give me some ideas to develop.

Here’s to a happy month of “novel” writing. Or just making things up as we go along.


P.S. If you have decided to write this month for Nanowrimo, let me know.

Posted in Uncategorized| 1 Comment


Comment by Nancy Brashear on November 4, 2015 at 10:52 am

Tom–I loved your post–and your quote from Yang, who I heard speak last year at a conference (as well as reading some of his graphic novels). He’s rather amazing! As you know, Nano can be about anything or any genre–and your writing idea sounds interesting! Yes–I’m going to try it again, too! I agree that it does help one to establish regular writing habits, which have gotten away from me! The most I ever wrote during Nano was 25,000 words, but it was a satisfying experience, and I later worked on those projects more (with revising as a later part of the writing process). Have fun writing!–Nancy
P.S. I’m trying the one-month trial of Scrivener for this year. My nephew who is a novelist recommended it Have you used it? …

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