By Josette Keelor and Jeb Inge
Thursday marked the first day of National Novel Writing Month, 30 days of high-speed, no-editing-allowed writing that encourages professional and amateur writers all around the world to write 50,000 words in an achievable yet challengingly short length of time.
What started in 1999 with only a couple dozen friends in California has turned into 200,000 participants worldwide this year, according to the nonprofit organization's website, www.nanowrimo.org.
With the express rules of starting from scratch on Nov. 1 (or later), and such a quickly looming deadline of Nov. 30, is it really practical to write 50,000 words in a month? Two of the Daily's own will find out this month, and plan to update their successes or failures each Saturday through Dec. 1.
Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month before? Why did you decide to this year?
Inge: I have wanted to write a book for a few years but could never find the right amount of spare time. National Novel Writing Month is perfect because it forces me to find the time to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Keelor: This will be my fifth year writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month. The first year I didn't finish. At 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 I still had over 5,000 words to go, so I quit. The next year I was more prepared with an outline; I also vowed never again to read anything for fun during the month of November that would distract me from writing.
What is your story about?
Inge: I have one rule about my book and that is "don't talk about the book until it's finished."
Keelor: This year I'm writing my first fantasy novel. It's about a teenage princess (the middle of three sisters), who must save her kingdom when it's invaded while she is away on a traditional journey. Her kingdom is the only one on her continent that encourages princesses to pursue trades that will help their people. The middle princess doesn't have much faith in herself, until she becomes her kingdom's only hope.
What did you do to prepare?
Inge: I stayed away from traditional prep like "planning," "plot outlines" or "character sketches." But I did make an awesome music mix tape that would work well when the movie adaptation of the book inevitably hits theaters. I wanted the book to have a lot of spontaneity, and what better way to achieve that than by being spontaneous?
Keelor: This year's novel has more back story than any of the others, so even though I formed a plot outline months ago, I spent a lot of the last week researching Medieval-style names and their meanings, diagramming a family tree going back 150 years, and drawing a layout of the story's setting.
When do you plan to write? How will you write (by hand/by typing/with voice to text recording)?
Inge: I'm a night owl, so most of my writing will probably be done in the evenings and into the late night. I have high hopes that weekends will be almost entirely spent writing, but I know better than to think it will actually happen.
Keelor: I have found I'm not very creative late at night, even on weekends. Though I'm normally not a morning person, in November I prefer to write before work. If I'm motivated, I can type the daily recommended 1,667 words in less than two hours.
During my first year, before I had a laptop, I would write portions of the story by hand, but I don't recommend it. To verify your word count at the end of the month, you would need to retype the entire novel (or estimate your word count and find a comparable number of words already typed.) Besides, handwriting is much slower than typing, and I'm more inclined to edit as I go if I'm writing by hand, so unless you have several hours to devote to novel writing every day, I think it's an unnecessary waste of time, if you can avoid it.
How have the first two days been?
Inge: The first night I decided to take a well-deserved break, so I didn't write anything. The second day I was able to crank out 1,200 words. I always said writing school papers would be easier if I could pick all the topics. This project already has me doubting that.
Keelor: So far so good. I wrote 1,689 words in about two hours on Thursday morning, which I think makes this the first year I started the month already on track.
How do you expect the following week/month to be? Do you have any secret weapons for making your word count each day/week?
Inge: I expect the first week or so to be the most difficult. I'm just not used to writing this kind of volume. But I think after a few terrible days, it will become easier. By the end of the month, I expect I'll almost enjoy the process, like some strange type of literary Stockholm Syndrome.
Keelor: If I remain true to history, I quickly will fall behind on my word count and have to spend the rest of the month catching up. Last year I wrote (no lie) 19,885 words over the last four days to end at 50,025. I hope to avoid doing that this year. Obviously I don't have a secret weapon, except determination to complete the 50,000 words.
NaNoWriMo is ongoing, so anyone still interested in joining is welcome to sign up at www.nanowrimo.org, even after Nov. 1.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Region Editor Jeb Inge at 540-465-5137, ext. 186, or email@example.com