Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chris Baty - Founder of

November is National Novel Writing Month. Why is it National Novel Writing Month? Because in 1999, Bay Area writer Chris Baty decreed it as so. He gathered up 20 of his closest friends and they each wrote a novel in 30 days. This year—seven years later—Baty's "NaNoWriMo" will see 60,000 people sign up at to take the novel-writing challenge (and you can still sign up; writing commences November 1). I caught up with Baty to find out why his vision has such mass appeal.

How did you decide that encouraging people to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was a good idea?

The idea was to give yourself permission to write a laughably awful novel. You give yourself permission to suck and then you free yourself from those fears that you're a hack. That's the first step in writing a good book—giving yourself permission to write a bad book.

But I don't want to write a bad book...

I know, it's tough. The problem is that as we get older we shy away from realms of incompetence, but you really have to embrace this idea that not knowing what you're doing is totally fine, and to just write for word count.

So how'd you get this thing off the ground?

I love books and I thought it would be cool to get a group of friends together to just write a mediocre novel in a month. The name [National Novel Writing Month] was just a joke. It was a consolation prize for writing such crappy novels—we could at least run them under the banner of this fancy name. I've been running NaNoWriMo every year since and it's gotten more extensive but really it's the same event that it was in 1999—30 days, 50,000 words: Go.

Has the size of it all exceeded your wildest dreams?

Yeah. The common assumption is that as a culture people are becoming more passive and it's hard for me to be part of NaNoWriMo every year and feel that that's true, because here's a HUGE group of people who are giving over a month of their lives just to write a novel. There're no prizes! All they get is the finished book and the experience of doing it. I think that attitude is hopeful for our culture.

Hey, locals! Portland has one of NaNoWriMo's most active chapters, with tons of participants, plus fun parties, writing groups, and other cool events all this month. So sign up today,, and join your nearby peers in the pursuit of extreme novel writing. You are not alone!

[Justin Wescoat Sanders / Portland Mercury]

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Having idea for book isn't novel

For aspiring novelists, still trying to peck out their story on the typewriter, November may be the perfect incentive: National Novel Writing Month. Under NaNoWriMo rules -- as laid out on -- speed writers have from midnight on Nov. 1 until midnight on Nov. 30 to come up with 50,000 words. That won't make it easier to finish the first 100 pages, but Tuesday's lunch crowd in downtown Roanoke proved the adage that we all have a novel inside us.

And for readers only October is, among other things, National Book Month.


Disabled veteran, Roanoke

Have you ever thought about writing a novel?

Yeah, plenty of times. You really want to know the truth? I thought about writing one about drug problems 'cause I was an addict myself.

Where would this book be set?

In Baltimore, Md. That's where I first got introduced to drugs, after I got out of the service.

I bet you have a lot of stories from serving in the military?

Yeah, and a lot of them have to do with drugs. I would write my book explaining to people what drug life is like and the only way out of it is jail time or death.

You're very candid, a good quality for a writer.

I didn't used to be.


Office manager, Floyd

Would you write a novel about your life?

I'm so in the middle, it's like the novel that's to be continued. I just turned 40 this month so maybe the first volume's complete and the sequel is coming.

What's the title?

The one to date, "How Not to Live Your Life."

So it's a story about turning corners?

Oh, lessons learned. I started out as a very young mother. ... I feel a lot wiser than I did 20 years ago.


Real estate appraiser, Fincastle

What would your novel be about?

An early trip from here in the early Civil War days, through the Cumberland Gap and to the West.

Would it be a story of hardship?

New beginnings. Hardship and then looking for the new beginnings. Maybe a Civil War soldier who may have lost his farm and decided to leave altogether for a new life out West. It sounds a little bit like "Cold Mountain," but a little bit different.

Who would be the hero?

Maybe an Indian that befriended the soldier.


Assembly line runner, Roanoke

What would your novel be about?

You got to crawl before you walk. So it would basically be about what we live, what we feed and what we grow off of. Would it be based on your own life?


Does your book have a title?

Yeah, "One Step at a Time." I wish I could call it "Life," you know what I'm saying?


Attorney, Roanoke

What would your novel be about?

My only comment is I'm presently reading Kinky Friedman.

October happens to be National Book Month, as well.

People should read four books a month. And lay off the television a little.

[Pete Dybdahl / The Roanoke Times]

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Write a Novel!

It's October now, and all you closet novelists out there know what that means: It means it's almost November. And November means National Novel Writing Month. Signups are now open over at, so go toss your writer's block out the window and put your name down to become an author.

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, the basic idea is 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days. It's not a competition -- anyone who participates can be a winner, and the reward is your very own novel. Nearly 6,000 people last year cleared the 50,000 word mark. Whether you're an experienced writer or a complete beginner, it's a creative trip like no other.

[Blogger Buzz]

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Faster than a speeding pen

"There is a novel inside everyone..." or so the saying goes. And one local group will be spending the month of November testing the theory.

November is National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo for short - and organizers encourage people of all ages, from the aspiring writers and the experienced, to write a 50,000 word novel (about 175 pages) in just one month.

That's an average of 1,667 words per day for 30 days, though most will probably find their novel doesn't fit quite so perfectly into that plan. However you get there, the goal is to do it in a month.

For anyone who has ever dreamed of penning the great American novel, but thought the goal was out of reach, the month of November is for you.

NaNoWriMo is the crash diet approach to writing. Get the words out on paper, and worry later about editing. The best advice anyone ever gave a writer is simple - "write." No revising, no stopping to agonize over every word. Just write. The program is the brain child of Bay area writer Chris Baty. He calls the event "an unforgettable month of playing in one's imagination," something he says few adults really do.

"So it's kind of nice to make it a priority for a month," he says, "to turn off that editor and just go."

Across the country, writers will be burning the midnight oil as they work to log their words. They'll stay up late and get up early, grabbing an hour at the keys before going to work or school.

Last year, 40,000 people took up the challenge, a number which has grown each year since the project got its start in 1999 with 21 writers. Participation is free. Anyone can register at the website,, whether you participate in local activities or not. There are message boards, inspiration and ideas, and even NaNo swag.

Throughout the month, writers can keep a running tally of their word counts, and submit a draft at the end for computerized counting.

The program provides inspiration, motivation, and something many need to get to the finish - a firm deadline. In addition, a young writers program encourages teachers to use NaNoWriMo as a classroom tool.

Teenagers and senior citizens, mothers and daughters, fathers and brothers, husbands and wives - NaNo attracts all kinds. And all are welcome. You don't need any special qualifications to participate. Just a desire to push yourself, though a touch of insanity does help.

Here in Williston, a writing group will meet weekly, with a late night write-in to the last minute on Oct. 30 and a wrap-up party in early December.

Mark your calendar for the meet and greet session planned for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, in the conference room at the Williston Community Library. Future meeting dates will be set at that session.

[Crysta Parkinson / Williston Herals]