Tuesday, November 1, 2005

It's the write time

And they're off! It's November 1 so it's time for the annual month of madness that is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

The premise is simple but it'll hurt: participants sign up at www.nanowrimo.org, begin writing their masterpiece from scratch from today, share their experiences, absurd caffeine/chocolate intake, and swift breakdown of relationships with everything apart from their wordprocessor, on the site's forums and write like crazy for the next 30 days.

Now in its seventh year, this global write-fest was the brainchild of Chris Baty, a Californian freelance writer, and has grown from 21 participants in 1999 to over 42,000 last year, all trying to meet the 50,000-word finish line by midnight on the last day of the month and make it onto the NaNoWriMo roll of honour. This year, an estimated 60,000 speedwriters are taking part and there are local chapters scattered across the UK, from Brighton to Birmingham.

As Baty says on the website, "It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly. Make no mistake: you will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down".

In addition to angsting on NaNoWriMo's own forums, the event has also entered the blogosphere, with many Nano's sharing their stories, successes and woes on their online diaries. There are also some nifty bits of tech. Steve Kane's blog sports a "Nanowrimo progress meter" to track his wordcount, while Light from an Empty Fridge is writing a "a web-based NaNoWriMo editor/publisher thing" to ease the job along. Wellyblog, meanwhile, is ever so excited about the new foldout keyboard he has bought in order to take part in NaNoWriMo and claims to have "one hell of a story" lined up.

If close-up pictures of a keyboard don't float your boat, you could take a look at Wongablog instead, where Andrew West has provided a photo of the corner of the spare room in which he'll be penning his masterpiece (using Writely and Firefox 1.0). West has set himself an additional spur to progress: if he fails to reach the 50,000 he will force himself to donate £500 he can ill-afford to an organisation he despises, the Institute of Creation Research.

The pleas for help have started, already. Jamie at Practical Useful provides an outline of his SF NaNoWriMo novel but isn't keen on his title, Star Shot, and is requesting alternative suggestions, while Lee Penney from Southampton is desperately seeking ideas on his blog, The Digerati Peninsula. "I need your help, folks, and I need it fast," he pleads.

Ari Sweeting in Bedfordshire is confessing to feeling left behind already (On the first day?! Oh dear.) because she couldn't start her opus at midnight but is ready to roll down the window of opportunity today between finishing work and the school run, while Graham Binns had already passed the 2% written mark by 50 minutes past midnight with 1,142 words but confesses this morning to feeling "slightly silly" about the whole thing.

Are you taking part this year? How's it going? Are you blogging your progress? Tell us about your masterpiece-in-the-making and link to your NaNoWriMo blog below.

[Michelle Pauli / Guardian Unlimited]

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