‘So,’ the geek with the plaid scarf and retro glasses said to me, as he waited for his elevator. ‘Have you ever done the whole National Novel Writing Month thing?’
Geeks confound me. They somehow describe activities, or movies, or anything, and make them sound as if only real nerd-geeks—the kind with pocket-protectors, thin ties, and 80s glasses—would be caught dead doing them. And at the same time they make those same activities seem like some avant-garde, ultra-exclusive society only the crème de la guik can get into.
‘No,’ I said. ‘I haven’t.’
‘I so did it last year,’ said the geek. ‘A lot of people are so, like, into it. Like, I’m so doing it this year.’
He gave me one of those looks—a severe inquisition that implies, ‘You so don’t have what it takes to be a real geek, do you? Bet you, like, never even played Final Fantasy VI.’
I decided I disliked this geek—and the National Novel Writing Month? How gauche. An affront to all real writers everywhere.
‘No,’ I said, with the sugary politeness that implies, ‘I dislike you and you are affronting all real writers everywhere.’ ‘No, I haven’t heard of it.’
The elevator rang its arrival. The geek ascended to distant levels of awesomeness that I, poor freelancer, could only dream about.
I promptly forgot the encounter.
How gauche, I thought. I so should look into this.
The website didn’t impress me. But then, I went through a phase where I looked at websites for a living. It takes a lot to impress me. I persevered.
The good people at NaNoWriMo, as it’s affectionately slurred, are on a multi-man crusade to encourage people to write. As Harvey deftly explains, they offer aspiring writers a deadline and an online commiseration group. It’s a sort of literary marathon. The idea, they say, is to write 50k words—not, necessarily, 50k good words. Output, not literature, is tantamount.
Aha, said my inner snide and cynical critic, so that’s why some participants in NaNoWriMo have gone on to be New York Times bestsellers.
Wait, said my inner marketer. Some participants in NaNoWriMo have gone on to be New York Times Bestsellers?
Apparently it’s true. Either they’ve gone on to improve on their November word vomit, or they ignored the ‘quantity, not quality’ mandate of the project. Or both.
By this time, I admit to being genuinely interested. I’m perched nicely on a manuscript of about 20k words, the third morph of my first novel, and I’ve been lecturing my reflection regularly about my need to complete it by the end of the year. Perhaps this would be my opportunity.
Ah, sorry. Existing manuscripts aren’t allowed. You have to start from scratch, the moderators explain. If you’re working with established material, you probably care about your characters too much already, and you’ll be tempted to edit instead of write.
I am pretty much attached to my characters. 20k words will do that. And for some reason, I’d always thought editing was part of the writing process.
In other words, if I’m writing tripe, and I know I’m writing tripe, I can’t write. Believe me, I’ve tried. I guess I need to maintain the illusion of literary greatness to keep me going.
That’s me out of this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ll let my geek friend ride his elevator alone with everyone else.
But I might see if I can get 50k done in 30 days—surely there’s no law against that? That’s not even 2k words a day. And if I’m not hitting 2k words a day, I’m not having a very good day.
So, despite my other projects, I think I’ll try it. Maybe not in the elevator, but hey, there’s the escalator. I’ll be posting periodic updates on my progress here—success, failure, forgetfulness. Welcome to distance writing.
Oh joy, say critic and marketer together—but with different inflections.
What, exactly, would you like me to relate about my mad, unauthorized writing month? Please comment with your suggestions, questions, and protestations. I really will pay attention.