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Write a novel in a month? Why not!

NaNoWriMo has one goal for participants: to complete 50,000 words (approx 175 pages) by 11:59:59 p.m. on November 30. The NaNoWriMo website claims they had 256,618 participants last year. 36,843 succeeded. That’s a 14 per cent success rate. Promising? No. We’ve signed up. Join us, and we’ll keep you updated throughout this month on how writing a novel in 30 days is going.

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By Sasha Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: October 31, 2012

There really are too many reasons to count. The website for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is overly optimistic: “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” But that’s what you need to take on this monumental task – no fear.

NaNoWriMo has one goal for participants: to complete 50,000 words (approx 175 pages) by 11:59:59 p.m. on November 30. The NaNoWriMo website claims they had 256,618 participants last year. 36,843 succeeded. That’s a 14 per cent success rate. Promising? No.

It began in 1999, with 21 people getting together and experimenting with the novel-in-a-month idea. The next year, the group put up a website for the event. It catapulted into a great success. Why? Perhaps the same reason magazines seem to require a “flatter stomach in 10 minutes” or “great abs: 15 minutes a day” headlines. We humans want it fast and easy.

But it must be acknowledged that NaNoWriMo lacks the easy aspect. 50,000 words in 30 days equals about 1666 words a day. And those words have to be part of a plot.

Perhaps this is part of the appeal. It’s reckless. It’s glamorous. It’s “literary abandon” in its sexiest form.

Or perhaps it’s taking advantage of human folly; committing, choking on more than we can chew, feeling pride, and letting that pride force us to swallow. Because if we fail, everyone will know. And if we swallow, we’ll have a novel.

On the website, users can sign up, talk to other writers on forums and scroll through the various advice given to the writers with poor decision-making skills (meaning anyone scrolling through the site). They do have a list of published authors who participated. Taking a quick scroll down the surprisingly lengthy list—how the heck do they pump out half-decent content?—we’re seeing a lot of fantasy/harlequin/chick lit. Here’s one that’s notable: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

We’ve signed up. Join us, and we’ll keep you updated throughout this month on how writing a novel in 30 days is going.

Meet the writers

Dessa Bayrock

Working title: The State of Giraffes in Absolute Darkness
Confidence to finish 50,000 words in one month: 84 per cent
NaNoWriMo username: DessaYo

The story I’ll be working on is one I’ve had on the back-burner for a while. I have approximately 8,000 words invested in it so far, and the plan is to add another 50,000 to it by the end of November.

The working title is The State of Giraffes in Absolute Darkness, and it deals with a couple of fast-food workers, a murder, parallel universes, eggs Benedict and a giraffe. I think I’ll probably cut out the part where they go to the Finnish underworld, but who knows. Anything can happen in a month.

Best case scenario, I take the time out of my morning Reddit ritual. Worst case scenario, I stop sleeping. So here we are, right here, right now, putting pedal to the metal.

Karen Aney

Working title: Working titles are for suckers.
Confidence to finish 50,000 words in one month: 99 per cent
NaNoWriMo username: KarenAney

I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. This means that I really don’t know what the heck I’m going to be writing yet. I do have a novel that I have started; it’s about halfway completed. My storyline is so complete that it almost feels like I’d be cheating if I used it for NaNoWriMo. I kind of want to use this challenge to do something completely different (my existing novel is dystopic and depressing), as sort of a palette-cleanser. It will be an extended exercise in indulgent humour. Think Captain Underpants with longer words and more sparkles. A complete foil for what I’ve been toiling away at.

I have a few ideas, most of them directed at the middle grade to young adult (or particularly-awesome adult) reader. If I haven’t pinned one down by November first, I plan to do exercises that can later be incorporated into the story. It’ll totally work. And it’s going to rock.

Sasha Moedt

Working titleThe Virgin
Confidence to finish 50,000 words in one month: 77 per cent
NaNoWriMo username: Smoot

Why I’d want to write a piece of historical fiction, I don’t know. I heard somewhere that in the Medieval times, women would wash themselves with a concoction made of simmered myrtle leaves, nettle and nutmeg to restore their lost virginity. I’ll write something about the physical and mental meaning of virginity to women in that time period. Or something. It can be loosely historical.

But that means research and stuff. Doesn’t matter. They say write what you know, but my mind won’t let me write something unless it’s something I am stuck on—I know that from experience—so I won’t be changing to something practical. Because I don’t know shit about the medieval period and the virginity thereof.

77 per cent is optimistic. Does 50,000 words seem like a lot to you? Seems like a lot to me.

Anthony Biondi

Working title: The Big Smoke
Confidence to finish 50,000 words in one month: 80 per cent
NaNoWriMo username: ABiondi

Someone proposed the idea of joining NaNoWriMo to me. It didn’t take long before I had an account on the official site and was browsing the forums.

All I can say is that I am excited, probably more so than I should be. But I had this novel just creeping around in the back of my head for a while now. A revision of the Halligan shorts I was writing in the Postcard Lit section of the paper last winter.

Oh gods, historical fiction. I want to be confident that I will succeed. I even gave myself an 80 per cent chance! But let’s face it. I am going to be six feet under with pencil crammed so far up my brain they will think I was born with it. At least I will have something to show for it at the end though . . . I hope.

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