Thursday, December 21, 2006

Write under the gun

Local author Margaret Fisk, above in
her home office, wrote a novel for
NaNoWriMo for the third time this year.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing.”

There you have it--the NaNoWriMo Web site’s call to arms. The semi-acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month, but that label doesn’t quite summarize the event that has taken place every November for the past eight years. A more accurate characterization would label it equal parts literary marathon, writing workshop and stage for public humiliation. The cost-free event challenges aspiring writers to make a novel happen fast, with no apology for the outcome. It is quantity, not necessarily quality, that is the driving force behind NaNoWriMo.

The rules are as follows: Each participant has exactly 30 days--that’s 720 hours for the sleep-challenged--to write a 50,000-word novel. If that number sounds intimidating, here is bit of consolation. Writers are allowed to make reasonable preparations beforehand. Creating outlines and developing characters are fine, but not a word of prose can see the light of day until 12 o’clock on the night of Oct. 31--a fitting start date for such a frightening endeavor.

Participants can upload their novels to the NaNoWriMo Web site for a word count any time between the first and last days of the month. If the numbers add up, congratulations to the conquering hero/heroine. Along the way, braver participants are encouraged to post short previews of their novels for the world to critique. The event works on the honor system, so there are no NaNo police to enforce the rules. Cheating would be a hollow victory, however, since prizes for completion are tactfully limited to a downloadable Web icon, 50,000 words of one’s own making and, most importantly, bragging rights.

NaNoWriMo (na-know-rye-moe) was founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, a freelance writer from Oakland, Calif., who was determined to write a novel. Realizing that he required more than just moral support if he hoped to complete the project, he enlisted 21 friends to commit to the same goal. Not quite a decade later, Baty has a lot more company. An estimated 75,000 signed on to become novelists during the 2006 NaNoWriMo.

In the spirit of the event, I corresponded, in writing, with some local NaNoWriMo participants. Their responses not only gave insight into locals’ experiences of the event, but they also offered pieces of sample writing. Emerging from a variety of backgrounds, each local writer shared the common ground of suffering through the exhausting and rewarding experience of writing a book.

Profiles in courage

Tom Smith is a second-year English teacher at Coral Academy of Science, a Reno charter school. He was also a first-time participant in NaNoWriMo. His wife, Michele, did NaNo last year and served as Tom’s inspiration to take up the torch in 2006. In the misery-loves-company flow, Tom decided to invite Coral students to toil with him. By Nov. 21, Tom said the 61 Young Writers Program students participating had produced more than 475,000 words.

Yve Lambert wrote her novel for
NaNoWriMo here, at Walden’s Coffeehouse.
“I am in awe at their responses; I could not have asked for more,” he said.

As for what the teacher and students hope to gain from the event, Tom said that he has several students who intend to hone their school writing projects into publishable works. He hopes to convince his administrators and the rest of the school--kids in grades fourth to 12th--to write their hearts out next year. Tom’s words of encouragement to potential NaNos are these: “Go for it! It is an amazing challenge and an amazing feeling to make those words flow.”

What does a computer programmer do for fun? In the age of prolific Internet writing, he becomes a novelist. Ron Overlist lives in Carson City, works with computers and has a family. He is also a self-proclaimed procrastinator. That potential writing impediment aside, Ron is an ideal NaNoWriMo candidate--it’s for anyone and everyone. The setting of his novel is late 19th-century Virginia City. The horror/western consists of “pure cheese, but fun cheese,” according to Ron. “It has ruthless mining barons, Pinkerton men, a few gunfights and ‘Nameless Horrors from Beyond Time and Space.'” It sounds like a healthy start on 50,000 words.

An important consideration for everyone who decides to write so profusely on a deadline is quality. Most of the local participants I spoke with voiced this concern. Most of them were also over it.

“Let go of your inner editor,” is Yve Lambert‘s advice to those who are considering writing a novel during NaNoWriMo. “Let go of any aspirations of writing the Great American Novel. This is a first draft, really rough. I’ve learned that the deadline is what I need. With it, I can let go of the need to edit everything while I’m writing. Soon, the creative mind takes over with no fear.” Lambert makes her living working in an office but is now basking in the personal glow of her new novelist status.

Completing a novel represents a life-altering experience for many NaNoers. The first under one’s belt can be a great confidence-builder, helping many would-be fiction writers gain the courage to come out of their respective closets.

As local participant Michele Smith noted in November, “I started out in the same place [as last year]--without a clue what to write about and with a lot of dread. Then the day dawned with the spark of an idea, and I took off and haven’t looked back … much. I hit 50,000 words on Nov. 11th and am still going.”

Smith was the first Reno-area NaNoWriMo participant to announce that she’d met the goal this year. After having pushed 20,000 words beyond the requirement, Michele has yet to run out of momentum.

The increasing popularity of NaNoWriMo is not limited to an audience of potential novelists.

Margaret Fisk is a local resident who had completed four novels before she jumped on the bandwagon. In fact, she was promoting her latest, a work in science fiction titled Shafter, while pushing toward her November goal. For Fisk, the challenge was not just to be productive, but also to work under the extreme time constraint. A NaNoWriMo participant must scribble down an average of 1,667 words per day to meet the quota within the allotted time. Fisk took on the challenge, successfully, for the third time in a row this year.

Writing is an inherently private process. NaNoWriMo does nothing to change that cold fact, but it does provide an inspirational public forum for writers. Benefiting from that extra support, some participants have gone on to edit and publish what they produce in November. With almost one year between us and next year’s event, there is plenty of time left for brainstorms, outlining and procrastination. So represent, Reno. Write away.

[Cheron Taylor / News Review]

Saturday, December 2, 2006

For a Block of Writers, 50,000 Words in 30 Days

The secret to writing a novel in a month is just to do it — and it’s a good idea to accept from the start that, barring miracles, it will be very, very bad.

This year about 80,000 people embraced that principle and agreed to try to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. They did not need to begin with a plot, characters, setting or any writing experience. What they did need was to commit to writing an average of 1,667 words a day in November, which was National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo, as it is known, goes against the time-honored cliché of the lonely, misunderstood writer laboring in isolation and agonizing over each word. Rather, it encourages its writers to commune online and to socialize in person at meet-ups and write-ins.

The sound of other novelists typing is a powerful incentive, said Chris Baty, 33, of Oakland, Calif., who has written a book every November for the last eight years. He started the novel-writing event in 1999, when only 21 people participated, and 6 finished. Since then it has expanded to 250 chapters around the world and has become a nonprofit corporation.

During National Novel Writing Month, quantity is everything, and quality is merely optional. As a result, participants are defined by, goaded by and obsessed by their word counts. Anyone who reaches at least 50,000 words is deemed a winner. Shortly after the clock struck midnight on Thursday, the results for this year were in: nearly 13,000 of the writers reported making it to the finish.

Each year exhausted and triumphant writers insert their novels into the word-count verifier — the words are encrypted in case anyone might want to steal that brilliant mess — on the official Web site, It is done on the honor system, which means that someone could theoretically submit “The Great Gatsby” (about the right length).

Winners receive an online certificate, and “win or lose, you rock for even trying,” the site says. Even the nonfinishers are invited to the “Thank God It’s Over” parties, and they can have their words included in the collective final word count, which was 982,495,939 this year.

For many of the writers the month is as much a series of social events as a way to put together a novel. But that is not to minimize the true suffering that occurs. Every year more than 80 percent of those who sign up for the project do not finish, often because the experience is just too painful. First there is the toll on the rest of the novelist’s life, with friends, family, co-workers and living spaces sure to be neglected.

And then there is the sheer torture of trying to write fiction continuously for several hours every day. Week 2 is the worst, Mr. Baty said, because that is when the book can feel like “a truck parked on your face.” Forced to make hard decisions about plot and characters, many people give up: “They love their book so much they stop writing it,” Mr. Baty said.

In online forums and at get-togethers, NaNoWriMo participants complain, sometimes desperately, of plots that have ground to a halt, make no sense or have written themselves permanently into a corner. Characters have a way of boring their authors to tears, completely disappearing or, most perplexing of all, behaving in utterly unexpected ways.

At a meeting of writers in Manhattan this week, Josh Cacopardo, 24, described his dismay at discovering on Day 10 that almost every character in his murder mystery had been killed off. Only the pressure of the Nov. 30 deadline, he said, made him forge ahead and somehow find a way to revive his depopulated story line. (At least one person, fortunately, wasn’t really dead.)

The program’s novels span genres and points of view. At the Manhattan meeting Olga Kogan, 22, was finishing “a coming-of-age story about a pair of incestuous twins in Edwardian England.” Clarice Meadows, 27, was writing a story about three tattoos; it was partly a mystery, partly a story of a teenage pregnancy and partly “a romance about a guy without an arm,” she said. Alexis Camp, 23, was close to finishing a young-adult quest fantasy featuring a character known, for now, as “the Great Evil.”

During the month the writers use various tricks to keep writing when they have absolutely nothing left to say — internal monologues, for instance, or impromptu sex scenes or the sudden appearance of a new character. Collectively, novelists can challenge one another to write a certain number of words on a certain topic in a set span of time. The results may end up being pure drivel, but they do wonders for the word count.

Mr. Baty knows he will hear this question: Does the world really need another 13,000 bad-to-mediocre novels?

“I feel that is exactly what the world needs,” he said. That is because “everyone who tackles this challenge comes away from it changed in some way, as a writer or a reader,” he explained.

It is a way to “lose yourself to a challenge that is bigger than you are,” he said.

But is it any way to write a good novel?

Eric Puchner, who teaches writing at Stanford University, is not so sure. Many of his students put speed first and “don’t spend enough time on their drafts,” he said. Their hastiness prevents them from concentrating on individual sentences “and making sure they’re blocking each scene carefully with sensory details,” he said.

Mr. Puchner, who has published a book of short stories and has been working on his first novel for two years, said, “I’m a slow writer because I need to be, and it makes me a better writer.” But he can see the value of a program like NaNoWriMo as a way for a fledgling writer to gain confidence.

In at least a dozen cases, novels that began during National Novel Writing Month have been subsequently published. Lani Diane Rich, whose humorous romance novels “Time Off for Good Behavior” (Warner Books) and “Maybe Baby” (Warner Forever) got their start that way, said the experience helped her banish the perfectionist tendencies that had held her back.

Her edited and published novels, though, were a far cry from their NaNoWriMo forebears. In November 2003 the novel that eventually became “Maybe Baby” contained this paragraph:

“49,622. That’s my exact word count right now. I have to make 50,000 in order to put this horrendous thing to bed and never, ever, ever have to look at it ever again. That’s why I’m writing this bit to you, my reader. All maybe two of you. Since I probably won’t be showing this to anyone lest I die of humiliation. And if you’ve read it, you know I’m not kidding about how horribly, horribly bad it is.”

[PHYLLIS KORKKI via New York Times]

Monday, November 20, 2006

How Writers Create Their Fiction: Chapter One

Don't let that novel go up in flames!
November isn't just the month of hanging chads and overstuffed turkeys. It's National Novel Writing Month. For the eighth year in a row, the web sponsors of this occasion are inviting aspiring fictioneers to compose a 50,000 word novel (that's 175 pages) in 30 days. Finish the word count, and you're declared a winner.

Writing a novel is a lot like riding a bike. A bike with no brakes and no gears. You've got one flat tire. Maybe two. If you're on a tricycle, you definitely have three flat tires. You're pedaling up a hill — a steep, pothole-filled mountain. And the weather? Let's just say it's a dark and stormy night.

To help you along, we've asked fiction writers from all genres for the essence of noveling: how they write, how they overcome writer's block and their best written sentence. Each weekday this month, we'll publish another novelist’s thoughts. Check back for novelists as varied as Neal Pollack, Rita Mae Brown and Joyce Carol Oates.

[MELODY JOY KRAMER and MARC SILVER / National Public Radio]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Writer's Clock

Until they pricked her with the anesthesia, Rise Peters planned to be writing.

The Bowie resident -- facing inflammatory breast cancer -- entered surgery Wednesday to have a growth removed from her liver. She is also approaching the halfway point of her novel, a mystery titled "Raised by Wolves." She must finish it by Nov. 30, averaging 1,667 words a day, cancer or no cancer.

"If you can't come up with a better excuse than me, forget it," Peters, 45, told attendees at the Oct. 29 kickoff party for the D.C. contingent of National Novel Writing Month. "We're all going to win this year."

Winning means simply writing 50,000 words (or 175 pages) in 30 days. Today participants should be hitting 20,000. If they were running a marathon, they'd be nearly halfway through mile 10.

"They," of course, are the WriMos, those reckless and ambitious souls who signed up for the undertaking, nicknamed NaNoWriMo, which started in 1999 with 21 participants and last year boasted 59,000. By the end of the month, an estimated 93,000 will have registered, a little over half of whom are from the United States.

Now, some fuzzy math: If this growth rate is constant and participation is cumulative, then every American will be writing a novel in November 2027. We'll be a country made entirely of boozing, tortured authors.

"Mr. Secretary, North Korea finally has a viable nuclear warhead."

"Hold on, I'm almost done with this sex scene."

Time and Punishment

The output needn't be as textured as Faulkner or as impeccable as Nabokov. It can be drivel. Swill. Dreck. Dross.

Chris Baty, program director for NaNo, has one piece of advice for the 2,500 or so WriMos in the District, Maryland and Virginia: "Get out of the 20,000s as fast as you can. If you can do it in three days, great. The 20s are like a swamp of the soul. Charge through them. The 30s start to feel wonderful."

But who has time for this? There are 40-hour workweeks, romantic relationships, episodes of "Deal or No Deal," transient and chronic illnesses and life's little duties and distractions.

Dan Fowlkes, 28, of Stafford has three children younger than 5, and his wife is pregnant with a fourth. So this year he's writing during the commute on Interstate 95 to his Defense Department job by using voice-recognition software.

"I'm dictating 2,000 words a morning," Fowlkes says. "Although, in the evening, I'll have to go over those 2,000 words and look for the places where the computer misheard me."

For those without a dead commute hour to devote, sacrificing that last ounce of free time can often open up a whole new perspective on your day-to-day routine.

"A lot of people discover the month they're writing their novel that they have more time for everything else in their life than they did

before," Baty says. "Once you decide to really prioritize something, whether that's novel writing or learning a foreign language, you tend to cut out the superfluous bits."

Even though making outlines and slaving over structure can be helpful, WriMos agree that an amateur novelist's best bet is to write fast and free, whether or not it's during November.

"Some sentences are really good, some are stinkers," says Peters, who is NaNo's municipal liaison for the District and does her fair share of 9-to-5 writing as a lawyer. "But none of them have that overworked, labored characteristic you get when you're second-guessing yourself."

[Dan Zak / Washington Post]

Friday, November 3, 2006

Who let the YAWP out?

Want to write a novel? Don't think you're talented enough? Still finding your muse? Prevaricating again on why it hasn't happened yet?

Stop. Drop everything. And sign up for National Novel Writing Month.

November is the month for your closet Great American novelist to break free and sound out a barbaric YAWP. If you don't know what that is, you need to check out online and Walt Whitman from the local library --- or "Dead Poet's Society" at the nearest video store, for the Cliff's Notes and Hollywood version.

NaNoWriMo was founded in 1999 by an Oakland freelance writer. The goal is simple: write a 50,000-word (175 pages) novel in 30 days … and voila, you're a novelist.

That's it.

Just ask Diann Tongco, Temecula resident and a second-year participant of noveling madness. Her NaNo novel last year wound up being 62,000 words -- and it all started with one character.

"I started role-playing this character," Tongco explained, "and she was just too awesome to role-play and have people doing whatever. She started yammering in the back of my brain, saying, 'You have to do my story.'"

This year, the Powers That Be at NaNoWriMo headquarters also appointed Tongco the region's municipal liaison -- the head cheerleader, mentor and organizer-of-local-write-ins -- for the Inland Empire region, in which 155 "WriMos" call home.

For the next couple of Saturdays, Tongco is hosting write-ins at It's A Grind coffee shop, 33215 Highway 79 South, in the Ralphs shopping center at the corner of Butterfield Stage Road. It's a chance for WriMos to get together and write in some semblance of a social setting, since writing tends to be a fairly solitary affair. The write-ins start at 12:30 p.m. and usually last a couple of hours, she said, "until people need to go or get tired of looking at each other."

After that, it depends on how everybody's schedules go, Tongco said. There's an event calendar for the region on the NaNoWriMo Web site where WriMos can check for future write-in dates, she added. She operates under the screen name "kalindria."

NaNoWriMo has grown from 21 participants its first year in 1999 (of which six crossed the "finish line") to 59,000 participants in 2005 (of which 9,769 finished). And while the group's volunteer spirit means it relies on the wallets of WriMos and generous sponsors to keep the event going year after year, one of the other aspects to NaNoWriMo that impresses Tongco is the organization's crusade for literacy. Half of the proceeds the group receives this year as a newly minted 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization will go toward building libraries in Vietnam, Tongco said.

Last year, the group raised $14,000 toward building seven libraries in Laos. This year, WriMos have donated nearly $100,000, halfway toward its goal of $200,000.

Though Nov. 1 has come and gone, it's not too late to join in this year's madness.

"Just write," Tongco advises WriMos. "Don't think about it, don't go back and fix it, just plow forward. If you want to finish, just go -- go, go, go."

Fifty thousand words. Thirty days.

Do it. Your Great American novelist is begging to sound out.

[CINDY HUNG / The North County Times]

Thursday, November 2, 2006

NaNoWriMo's the name, a novel is the game

It’s that little voice inside her that tells her she shouldn’t write, that her writing is silly and that she should just stop right now. She’s even named the voice … Pyra.

But this is November. National Novel Writing Month (the cool kids call it NaNoWriMo). When thousands of folks like Woestehoff take the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. So, Woestehoff has no time to deal with Pyra, her internal editor.

“I send her off, letting her know that I dislike her very much and want her to go away,” the Greeley writer said. “If she doesn’t leave, I just don’t pay attention to her. If what I write is horrible, that’s okay.”

Quanitity over quality. That’s what it’s about for NaNo-ers, or NaNo-ites or whatever their sleep-reduced, over-caffeinated brains call themselves. It’s not about writing good … err, I mean well. It’s just about writing. Getting words on paper. At least 1,667 per day.

NaNo (as the cooler kids call it) was founded by Chris Baty in Oakland, Calif., who started with 21 writers in 1999 (only six finished). Thanks to the power of the Net, word(s) spread and aimless would-be authors from around the world have come together on More than 75,000 writers are expected to participate this year.

“It is a great creative outlet that sets restrictions on editing yourself, and I really need that,” said Andy Segal of Greeley who finished his first novel last year in November and is working on his second for this year.

But all of this incredible word production comes at a cost because there are just so many hours in a day. The dog will walk himself. The dishes will get done in December. Sleep? Over-rated. Friends and family? They probably already know you’re a little nuts. And those Must-See TV shows become Must-Tivo.

“Housekeeping definitely slips,” said Robin Dean of Fort Collins, “But I’m embarrassed to admit that I also lose pretty much all contact with my friends who aren’t doing NaNo during the month.”

When November is over, when the words have all been counted and winners (those who cross the 50,000-word mark) are celebrated, what do these fatigued word generators earn?

Not much really. They can print out a certificate. And most, like Woestehoff, will print out their novels (usually about 100-150 pages) and use up a bunch of printer toner. “I will definitely take it around with me everywhere I go and brag and force my friends to acknowledge it, and then they give me the ‘She’s crazy’ look behind my back,” she said.

[Jared Fiel / NEXTnc]

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

November is National Novel Writing Month

Today marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called "nanowrimo" by the tens of thousands of its participants. Now in its 8th year, the month's premise is simple, really: Write 50,000 words in 30 days and earn the right to call yourself a novelist.

This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to writing forces novelists to get the words down and out, instead of stressing about little things like symmetry and syntax. Gone is the luxury of finding the exact turn for a phrase. Nanowrimo forces participants to think about quantity, not quality. About 1,667 words a day.

According to the nanowrimo website:
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.
The creators believe that the noveling process can be a fun and even social experience, so they've recruited a bunch of municipal liaisons to motivate writers in their area, including LA. There are group "write-ins" taking place throughout the city, too. So if you see a bunch of over-caffeinated folks, furiously pounding away at their laptops, you've probably stumbled onto one of them.

For more information on the month and local happenings, please visit the nanowrimo site. It's not too late to join in the fun...

**This LAist poster is going to give Nanowrimo a try this year for the first time...and will be giving word count updates a during the month.

[Christine N. Ziemba / LAist]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Novel approach

Bowie resident Rise Sheridan-Peters plans to
attempt her sixth novel next month in a national
challenge where people sign up online and try
to write at least 50,000 words during November.
It’s said that everyone has at least one idea for a story in them, and yours might be a doozy — a tale that would, once published, rocket to the top of the national best-seller lists.

There’s only one problem: You need to write it first.

Getting down to the actual nuts and bolts of writing can be difficult, but there’s nothing like some competition to get the creative juices flowing — or at least get the words down on paper.

Next month might bring just what you needed to get the ideas going.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, began in 1999 in Oakland, Calif., when 21 people challenged themselves to write a story of at least 50,000 words during November. Six of them completed the task. Over the next six years, the challenge has grown, until last year about 59,000 people participated from countries all over the world, of which almost 10,000 won.

Winning is a relative term. It means those who reached the 50,000 goal, not any judgement on the stories they actually wrote. But in NaNoWriMo, the goal is quantity not quality, at least for the first draft. As one might hear around the forums, there’s always time to edit in December.

The word count needed is impressive — about 1,660 words per day, every day, for a month.

Nicole Lucier of University Park has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2002.
‘‘A friend in Ann Arbor told me she was thinking of doing it,” Lucier said. ‘‘It sounded like fun, and through my friend I knew several other people who were organizing an online (because of differences in location) support and encouragement list to get us through the month.”

Lucier uses the word count to motivate herself through November. ‘‘I chatted every day with my friends online, and we used Excel spreadsheets, daily word goals, and critical point rewards at the 10,000 word marking points to keep us going,” she said of her first year. ‘‘My daily goal took me about an hour, and I would sit down with my laptop — disconnected from the Internet — and get it done.”

She’s far from the only county resident involved in NaNoWriMo. Rise Sheridan-Peters of Bowie is in her sixth year.

‘‘I tripped over it while wandering around the internet,” she said. ‘‘I’m ... always looking for new things to try, I like to write, I’d always wanted to write and finish a novel, I’m a short-attention-span poster child and deadlines motivate me ... there were a lot of reasons [to join].”

The number of people joining increases each year, inducting new NaNoWriMo freshman each November. Tiffany Mathews was one of those last year, and is going for her second attempt in 2006.

‘‘I generally plot [the story] out first,” Mathews said. ‘‘That way it’s easier to pace the story and I’m more likely to get close.”

Interacting with other people trying for the same masochistic goal seems to help a number of people.

‘‘I didn’t attend write-ins the first year,” Lucier said. ‘‘I preferred to write at home, without music or talking around me, and where people also couldn’t see my changing facial expressions as I worked out chapters, but I did attend an initial get-to-know-you meeting with other D.C. writers and a midpoint dinner hosted by our municipal liaison — where I pulled a plot point out of a hat, which got me through a lull in my own ideas — and I hosted the thank-goodness-it’s-over party at my apartment that year.”

Getting help from outside sources, whether they be a plot from a hat or a thread in one of the forums at the Web site,, is another way of keeping yourself writing through the month.

Sheridan-Peters, who has won — reached the 50,000 word mark — every year so far said, ‘‘To keep myself motivated, I volunteered to coordinate write-ins for the D.C. area. I’ve been the D.C.-area municipal liaison for years. That way, if I were to fail, I would fail very, very publicly. Avoiding public humiliation is a great spur.”

She said that in addition to that, she also talked her best friend into signing up with her their first year, in 2001, and recently her 16-year-old daughter Kendra Gresham has joined as well.

‘‘There is nothing like having a word-war with your teenager to get your competitive juices flowing,” she said.
Words wars involve two or more people seeing who can write the most words in a set amount of time.

‘‘The important thing is not to be scared by the word count,” Mathews said. ‘‘It’s good to try, even if you don’t make the final count.”

Lee Budar-Danoff of Columbia is the municipal liaison for this area. She helps organize the kick-off event, as well as keep track of write-ins and other events around the area. She said that in week one, when ideas are fresh, and in week four, when the pressure of the deadline starts to mount, motivation is not as difficult. The toughest times lie in between.

‘‘In weeks two and three, reality sets in,” she said. ‘‘Writers realize the need to continue writing every day to make that deadline of 50,000 words in thirty days. Writing is often a solitary effort, and easy to put off when there is laundry to do, dirty dishes piling up or hungry children at our knees. At this point, I recommend that writers break out of their lonely situation and participate in something social.”

That she said can range from attending a write-in to participating in the Web site forums to just reading the motivational e-mails sent to participants.

‘‘We find all kinds of ways to support or goad each other into writing: word-count challenges, bribes of food prepared by others, fears of ridicule if we don’t finish after telling family and friends of our effort, and of course keeping our eyes on the prize: being able to state, at the end of the month, that we are novelists!”
The number of National Novel Writing Month participants — and winners — has increased dramatically since its inception in 1999.
Participation numbers are approximate.
1999: 21 participants, six winners
2000: 140 participants, 29 winners
2001: 5,000 participants, about 700 winners
2002: 13,500 participants, about 2,100 winners
2003: 25,500 participants, about 3,500 winners
2004: 42,000 participants, about 6,000 winners
2005: 59,000 participants, 9,769 winners
[Jessica Loder / Gazette.Net]