Say what? That’s National Novel Writing Month, of course! It extends from November 1 to November 30 every year, and over 200,000 people around the world, including me, will be writing a 50,000 word novel in that time span. That’s 1600 words a day-but who’s counting?
Of course it is something of a gimmick, but in past years some of the first drafts written those Novembers have actually ended up as published books, from real publishers. And for those of us who’ve always wanted to write a novel, and never got around to it, it provides a helpful boost, or kick in the pants.
I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo two (or was it three) years ago. I had never heard of this project, but on November first I read something about it, and decided to take the plunge. Of course I was already 1600 words behind. But I signed up at www.nanowrimo.org, and off I wrote. The founder of the idea, Chris Baty, has written a supportive book, “No Plot? No Problem! : A Low-Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days,” and I found that my experience was a surprisingly common one. The book is a steal at $1.99 on Kindle!
Since I loved reading murder mysteries (to the puzzlement of my daughters) I decided to write one. And since I knew colleges pretty intimately after eighteen years of education and twenty-five years of employment at a variety of them, that seemed a fitting venue.
Week One: The ideas flow, the word counts mount.
Week Tw: Brain freeze sets in. Ideas dry up. Each day is torture, and eking out the 1600 words daily is painful. Each day I approach the computer with not a single idea of where the story is headed. But I persist.
Week Three: The dam leaks, then crumbles. Suddenly the plot takes shape, the words flow, the characters start to develop, and the plot line takes on a direction. I then managed to lose three days’ work, and recovered in a marathon 6000 word writing frenzy.
Week Four: The end is in sight, the plot wraps up, and the story is finished on November 29th. I upload my manuscript of just over 50,000 words to the NaNoWriMo site, in order to receive my certificate of achievement. I am proud, relieved, and wonder what I will do with all the time on my hands.
The novel that I wrote, “Bad Chemistry,” is a mystery about a number of murders on a small college campus in Maine, told in first person by the college president, Abby Goodman. Wrapped around the murders is the story of daily life on the campus, with the personalities and problems Abby has to deal with, and her life both on and off campus. I intend to self-publish it one day, but feel it needs more description of place, and the characters need to be better fleshed out and disguised, since so far only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
But meanwhile, I am starting on “Tainted Biology” next Friday. It will be a prequel, again told by Abby, about her graduate student days in Israel, and the murders that happened there. Background this time will be life in a research laboratory, fraud in science, and juggling family and research lives. That’s all I know today, but I am really interested to see what develops.
Then I will get back to “Bad Chemistry” for a pre-publication push.
Any novel-writing wannabes out there? Join me at www.nanowrimo.com. The website now has all sorts of links and encouraging updates from successful authors, such as Neil Gaiman and John Green, as well as projects to support young writers.
And next month I’ll read your novel if you’ll read mine!