Wednesday, November 2, 2005

National Novel Writing Month Begins

The streets are dark early on Oct. 30 as I rush toward Espresso Roma, construction paper and markers balanced in my arms. It's almost time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and we're having a kick-off party. That's right, the nearly 20 of us who gather tonight will spend November in pursuit of a mad goal: Each of us will write a novel.

The idea is for each participant to write 50,000 words between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. NaNoWriMo began in 1999 with a couple of people, including the founder, Chris Baty. The internet has fueled growth. Last year more than 42,000 people across the world registered for the month, and well over 6,000 completed the task.

The final number of registrants isn't in for this year. There's still time to register at Baty doesn't turn off registration until Nov. 25.

We still have 30 hours to go before NaNoWriMo begins in the Pacific Northwest, so we gather to plan — high school and college students, several writing teachers and assorted others, ranging in age from 15 to somewhere in the 50s. I know there are others, because 117 people (or more) have signed up in the Eugene area.

One of the Eugene-area newbies asks, "So, say I write my 500 words or whatever …" An experienced WriMo interrupts, "No, no, you need to write 1,667 a day." An awed pause falls over those gathered at pushed-together tables. "Sixteen hundred and sixty-seven words a day?" someone asks. "Well, it's really 5,000 words every three days," I say. "However you do that, it's fine."

With the ugly math behind us, we move on to something more visual. "OK. Take some markers, take some construction paper, and create the cover for your book," I suggest.

Holding up the covers, we talk about our plans. I'm writing a realistic young adult novel (no cheering); a senior will create "something with zombies at South Eugene High School" (cheering). The other YA novel author elicits applause when he mentions, "There will be magic!"

By our 4 pm meeting on Sunday at Triomphe, each of us should have written between 8,333 and 10,000 words. We end with what will be our chant for the month: "Quantity, not quality! Quantity, not quality!"

[SUZI STEFFEN / Eugene Weekly]

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