I now have a Pavlovian response to seeing Halloween candy in stores: I start thinking about ideas for a novel. National Novel Writing Month starts at midnight on Oct. 31, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who’s ever said, ‘I want to write a novel someday.’ Someday is here. You’ve got two weeks to dream up an idea (but no writing allowed). Or start writing Halloween night by the seat of your pants. What’s more scary?
Read my longer love letter to NaNoWriMo from last year, and then go sign up!
A friend once told me that her fridge is never so clean as when she’s facing a big assignment. It’s a truth universally acknowledged: Writers procrastinate. And the internet has made it easier than ever before. Now instead of cleaning your house to avoid writing, you can watch that episode of House you missed on Hulu. Or play Word Scramble on Facebook. Or shop for new ballet flats. (Yes, these are real-life examples from last week. OK, yesterday.)
But thanks to the NaNoWriMo forums (which I was surfing when I should have been NaNoing), I’ve discovered an awesome procrastination buster: Write or Die. In this web-based application, you simply type in how long you wish to write uninterrupted, and a word count goal. Then you click the “Write” button, and you’re taken to a screen where you can type. Counters display both the time left and the word count, but the best part is that if too much time passes without typing, the screen changes color and starts making sounds to keep you on task. (A more serious setting will actually start deleting words you’ve written if you pause too long — talk about motivation!)
So often I find that the hardest part is getting started. Once I write a sentence or two, I’m off and it’s easy to keep working. What’s great about this site is you can use it just to get yourself a quick-and-dirty draft. Oh, and if you hate the idea of using a web-based writing program, you can download a desktop version for $10. If anyone gives that a try, please report back!
Nov. 28, 2006, was one of the coolest days of my life. That’s the day I wrote the 50,000th word in my budding novel, and thus “won” NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. (Everyone who hits 50,000 by Day 30 wins.) Writing a novel in 30 days was one of the most insane, intoxicating, awesome things I’ve ever done, and I can’t recommend it enough.
One of my grad school professors once said, “No one’s going to break into your house and read your work when you’re not looking.” Translation: Don’t be afraid to put something — anything — down on the page. This is precisely the mantra of NaNoWriMo. In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to muzzle your inner editor. Don’t worry, she’ll have a chance to speak her mind on Dec. 1, but you’ll be surprised how much workable stuff you have by then — and how much plot develops by the simple virtue of having to move forward with what you’ve got. And there are so many delightful surprises along the way, like when your protagonist falls in love with the guy who’s just supposed to be a distraction. Characters have a way of doing that if you let them.
So, if you’ve always wanted to write a novel, go sign up now. Fair warning: NaNo is highly addictive. I hit the sophomore slump in 2007 and didn’t finish, and last year I decided to pass because I was planning my wedding. (Although, in retrospect, it probably would have been a great stress reliever.) But I’m fully motivated this year. If you’re in, friend me, and we’ll muddle through November together!