Writing is one of the loneliest pursuits (or professions), and as I know as well as anyone, enthusiasm for expressing oneself is tempered by the daunting challenge of actually doing it. For those of us for whom having written a novel is a more appealing prospect than, you know, actually writing it, National Novel Writing Month provides a quirky motivating nudge.
The annual event, which encourages writers to complete the first draft of a novel in thirty days with the knowledge that one can publicly celebrate one’s progress while embracing the morale-boosting benefit of knowing that one is part of a worldwide community of fellow scribes, is in its fourteenth year.
Last time around, more than a quarter million people participated from all over planet Earth. Only one out of seven hit the 50,000-word goal, but every one of them started — and as we all realize, the first step is the hardest. (More than a hundred NaNoWriMo participants have had the novels they worked on for the event published — again, not everyone, but enough to make it reasonable to imagine that someday you number among them.)
To help encourage participants, the NaNoWriMo website offers various features and tools, including Pep Talks, email messages from published authors ranging from Booker Prize winner Nick Hornby (whose books High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch have been adapted for film) to newcomer Melissa Mayer, whose young-adult novel Cinder started out as a NaNoWriMo draft.
You’ll also find NaNoWriMo badges you can download onto your website or blog, special offers for software products or self-publishing deals, and forums in which you can contact other participants in your area to give and receive advice and encouragement. (Forums include the Appellation Station, where participants can get help with naming people, places, and things — and books — and the Character Cafe, a resource for development of your dramatis personae.)
In addition, NaNoWriMo sponsors ancillary events, such as a fund-raising write-a-thon on site in San Francisco; Camp NaNoWriMo, an extension of the original event held during other months; and support materials for teachers and students involved in the event. And, as usual, the website lets you keep track of your word count and post excerpts of your work.
The beauty of this crazy conception is that the timed nature of the event encourages you to do what writers must do to succeed: Just write the damn thing already — no time to edit, no opportunity to agonize. Write a crappy first draft. (All first drafts, the site assures you in its inimitably perky-but-puckish style, are crappy.) Sign up, already. Operators are standing by.