National Novel Writing Month 

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Every November as part of National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated to Nanowrimo) thousands of people attempt to write a novel. A novel in this case is 50,000 words in thirty days. Many succeed. Many more never get past zero words.

To write a novel in thirty days one needs to maintain a pace of 1667 words a day. Some Nano novelists churn out 2000 a day to make up for those days when they might need to slack off. Others attempt marathon sittings of 5000 words a day. Some nitwits even got past 10,000 words on November 1, but I sure wouldn't like to read the crap they're typing out.

I started my November novel-fixation on October 22, 2002. Hanging out in Alba Iulia's internet cafes, where smoke festooned the ceilings and teen boys downloaded porn for their embarrassed girlfriends, I decided that I would finally finish my novel. Here was the perfect idea: I would take any one of those novel snippets I had lying around and expand it to 50,000 words of brilliant literature.

That first Nano I got to 2000 words of a story about a unicorn called George the Turd that escapes from the Musée de Cluny. I read it out a few months later to a writing class and someone said, "I once wrote a story about a prissy unicorn too." That killed George.

The second Nano I began my novel about an orphan who kept lists of words hidden from a headmistress who used the orphans as slave labour. My orphan was to have run off with a black sailor called Tom, but as far as I know she still languishes in the dreary orphanage mending socks for seamen. I quit at 3000 words and my writing class liked that one better.

The third Nano got me to just over 15,000 words with the story of a travelling carnival, its vampire-zombie freakshow, an invincible heroine who has a thing for crosswords in a materialist country run by a militaristic chancellor, dozens of muskrats both living and taxidermied and a ten-year-old six-foot bearded little girl called Heidi. Heck, you can read it here.

This year I am going to surpass 15,000 words if it kills me.

I am trying out all sorts of novel - oh! a pun! - techniques: pegging my word rate against other Nano novelists' in friendly cutthroat competition, not going to sleep until I had my first 2000 words down, writing in note-form (I'll fill in the "saids" and "sigheds" later) and ignoring the pain that I am writing crap that no amount of editting can fix.

Is anybody else out there doing Nano this year?

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