Got some free time in November? Write a novel!

I’m not a marathon runner, but it sure feels like I’ve signed up for one.

November is National Novel Writing month, which is less a 30-day celebration of the written word and more a torturous slog through the process of drafting a complete first version of a new novel.

The annual “event” dates back to 1999 when San Francisco freelancer Chris Baty and 21 other Bay-area writers challenged themselves to each complete a 50,000-word novel. The project, known as NaNoWriMo, and its associated web site and community has grown steadily in popularity with 341,375 writers participating in 2012. Roughly 10% of those who tried last year ended up reaching their goal.

The purpose of the event is to help motivate those of us who have “always wanted to write a novel” to at least get a rough first draft done. To that end, writers are encouraged to think “quantity over quality” as they make their way through the month-long challenge.

Mostly it’s solitary work, pounding away at the keyboard, but there are local groups in different cities that host kickoff parties and “write ins” at cafes and libraries to give fellow writers encouragement, advice, and most importantly, to actually write!

Some start totally cold with just a germ of an idea (that would make you a “pantser” for writing by the seat of your pants with little prep). Others outline their plots, research, and do character studies before actually starting to write.

The process is pretty simple:

  • Sign up for free on the web site
  • Write an average of 1,667 words a day
  • Check in daily to log your word count
  • By the end of the month, you’ll have a novel

Dang, if only it was that easy!

I’ll be one of the pantsers. All I’ve got in my head at this point is a family coming together to spend a week walking the shores of the Isle of Wight off the coast of England. Family drama type stuff in the style of Jonathon Tropper, conflict between parents and adult children, broken dreams, hope, and an as of yet undetermined crop of local characters they meet along the way.

I seriously don’t know what I’m getting into, but that’s half the fun! We’ll see what happens…