And then, you actually try to sit down and write the thing. And by “write,” we mean type a few paragraphs before curling into the fetal position and crying, or being completely absorbed by Internet distractions.
Sound familiar? Enter National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if you’re into the whole brevity thing, equal parts marathon and sprint, where intrepid bestsellers-to-be push pens and cheer each other on in an effort to finish a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. According to the NaNoWriMo website, more than 160,000 people participated in last year’s competition, officially logging more than two billion words. And yes, these novels do get published—perhaps the most notable example is Sara Gruen’s acclaimed Water For Elephants, which was drafted during NaNoWriMo.
Your correspondent attempted NaNoWriMo this year at the urging of a friend, but, like many, threw in the towel before hitting the 1k mark. But that didn’t stop us from looking around to see what other WriMos were working on. Amid all the tales of amorous orcs and dystopian futures (not that either of these things are not awesome), we found a few premises that delved from the usual fare. Maybe after reading these synopses and excerpts from this year’s competition, you’ll be ready to conquer your own writer’s block.
If this list doesn’t inspire you to break out the ol’ word processing machine, this list of literary dares from the Atlanta region (a.k.a. NaNoLanta) just might help you get moving. Our favorite dare? “Include the Kraken.”
Four Days of the Dragon: A Zombie Apocalypse Love Story
Region: Atlanta, Ga.
Synopsis: Dragon*Con. Zombies. Patrick Stewart. Chainsaws. Geek love.
Excerpt: “I once read that the most irritating noise to humans was the sound of cutlery scraping across a plate. Until today, I had thought it a reasonable possibility. Now I know better. The most unpleasant noise in the universe is the reverberating whine of a chainsaw working its way laboriously through human bone in the vast echo chamber of a hotel atrium.”
The Batmania Alternative
Region: Melbourne, Australia
Synopsis: A series of short stories:
“Hector, The Horse Love Doctor” – A talking horse dispenses love advice to people who don’t need it—while being very annoying and not a little disturbing.
“Quest Ad Infintum” – A particular boy is randomly chosen every year to undertake a dangerous quest to save his village. Now that he’s turned 27 he’s getting rather sick of it. This may be the year he finally cracks.
“Spy vs Spy” – Two spies with rather differing methodologies are put together on a dangerous mission, and only their mutual hatred of one other will keep them alive.
“The Lost Morning” – A creature of the night yearns to see the dawn, and he won’t listen to those who know better.
“Wannabe Weatherman” – After 15 years of failed attempts to pass the weatherman exams, John decides it would be easier to make the weather match his predictions than the other way around.
Region: Salt Lake City, Utah
Synopsis: Steampunk murder mystery set in Salt Lake City in 1870.
Region: East Bay, Calif.
Synopsis: A lone park ranger fantasizes about the lives of other people, one of whom is probably fictional.
Wir sind für die Musik geboren (We Were Born For The Music)
Author: Raven SIlvers
Excerpt: “The Australian people — the original Australians, not the white settlers who came onto their land much, much later (over forty thousand years later) — believed that that all of creation was dreamt into being. They call it the Dreamtime. They have songlines, sacred verbal maps of the Australian continent, which helped their people navigate the vast expanses of Australia’s interior and its desert. They also believed that the songs had to be sung by every generation, or else all of creation would cease to be. They believed in the music.
Fast forward several thousand years, and now we have string theory. No matter what your feelings are about string theory, it posits that the world is made up of vibrating filaments and membranes of energy. Does that sound familiar to you? Like, say, how a piano or a guitar works?
In a guitar, the strings vibrate. These disturbances in the air resonate inside the body of the guitar to produce an audible sound.
It’s essentially the same thing in string theory. All matter is made up of tiny strings of vibrating energy. Essentially, we’re the disturbances in the air that were amplified into sound. Or, in this case, being.
So, these two systems of belief (have you seen how emotional theoretical physicists can be?) are separated by over forty thousand years. But why do they sound so similar?
Maybe because the world, this world at least, is made out of music. It may not be music as we understand it, but when you come down to it, it certainly is a kind of music.”
Region: New York, N.Y.
Synopsis: So the plot i came up with while posting about not having a plot is of a computer virus that becomes self-aware and wants to do The. Right. Thing.
Also Sprach Clint Eastwood
Region: Calgary, Alberta
Synopsis: A musician begins a long distance relationship with a stripper. When he visits her for a weekend, he learns a number of valuable lessons about life while doing enormous amounts of irreparable damage to himself, both emotionally and physically.
Excerpt: “I got it in Calgary. I left my card at home. I came here for a weekend with my girlfriend, then she dumped me because she’s still attracted to other people. I’m hung over. I threw up on my pants yesterday and it’s the only pair I have. I had a car accident. I hit a dog. And I love dogs. I had to eat All Bran this morning. All Bran is for the old and infirm and slowly dying, and now that I think about it, maybe that’s me after all. I don’t even have a bus ticket home because I washed it. What I have is a hundred dollars and you’re holding it right now. What I need is a coffee and a goddamn cinnamon bun. And if you won’t sell it to me, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna walk over to that little table where you’ve got the sugar and the cream and the stir sticks and stuff, and what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna start crying. And this isn’t gonna be like some movie crying where a sad single tear like rolls silently down your face no, this is gonna be like a full blown cry like hitching and sobbing and snot flying everywhere and hiccuping and gagging and then I’m gonna lay down on the floor and start banging my head and I’m gonna throw a tantrum. I’m gonna start yelling,” and I did, “I WANT A CINNAMON BUN I WANT A CINNAMON BUN I WANT A CINNAMON BUN I WANT…”
The Brothers and Sisters of Interesting People
Region: East Bay, Calif.
Synopsis: Jan de Graaf has spent the past five years managing his parents’ estate and regularly impersonating his twin brother Jayden, goalkeeper and all-around hero for the Dutch national football team. It began when Jayden asked him to do a publicity appearance, and now Jan borrows his identity to go out every night. He amuses himself by curating a collection of friends to fill his time and his brother’s houses, people who catch his eye and will put up with his eccentricities.
Thomas Dijkstra has been in hiding on an Amstel River houseboat since his younger brother was arrested and sentenced to prison time for smuggling cocaine into the country. He borrowed money from Jan to pay off his brother’s dealer and can’t find a way to pay it back; in the meantime, he runs an unlicensed club on his houseboat and pays for food and electricity with the proceeds.
Abigail Dailey ditched her family in Columbus, Ohio to get a Master’s from the Universiteit van Amsterdam, but after a few months she found a job and left school altogether. She hasn’t spoken to her mother, Ohio Senator Sarah Dailey, or her father since; her half-brother, the product of an affair between Abigail’s father and a neighbor, sends updates on his campaign for the state legislature (and money, when she runs out). She’s just a little too fascinated by Jan to do the smart thing and detach herself.
Hanne Vos came to Amsterdam from Texel with her sister and lived on her sister’s wages until she found a job as a photographer. Jan got her the job after meeting her sister, and has felt entitled to Hanne’s friendship since. The fact that Hanne is lesbian only makes her more entertaining from Jan’s point of view—besides, he only pursues women who think he’s Jayden, never his friends. Jan knows too many important people—job contacts—for Hanne to get rid of him entirely.
It’s a group held together through a perpetual balancing act and Jan’s constant acquisition and dismissal of exciting new people. When Thomas’s brother is released from prison, though, the balance shifts too quickly and DRAMA ENSUES.
For Me It Was Tuesday
Region: Auckland, New Zealand
Synopsis: Kathy is a strait-laced and ‘by the book’ parachute instructor. She likes her work; which feeds her need for discipline. Then her sister Beatrice comes crashing back into her life and in quick succession, she:
Jumps out of an aircraft.Excerpt: "Well I’m not doing it anymore, alright! I’m not like you; I don’t want to scale walls and dodge arrows, I want to scale tax returns and dodge paperwork. I don’t want to achieve immortality through great deeds; I want to achieve immortality through not dying!”
Beats up an elder god
Rides a rainbow out of an office building
Gets caught in a blind mêlée between some Yen Monks and fifty competitive archeologists.
Gets riotously drunk and wakes up in another hemisphere
That’s the end of the first day.
Region: Liverpool, U.K.
Synopsis: Obsessed with pop diva Mielle, blogger Joe Cohen creates a fake female persona online to try to discover her real identity. Can he keep up the charade long enough, or will she find him before he finds her?
Bonus Drag Queen Christmas Special Award:
Region: Philadelphia, P.a
Synopsis: “A young ex-marine seminary student, Archard Roughhouse, moves into an apartment haunted by the ghost of a drag queen whose stage name was Ruby Diamond. His trademark was to dress up in costumes that reflected the holiday, season, or month; a passion he acquired at six when he tried on her older sister’s pumpkin fairy dress. At first, he is appalled and tries exorcism to get rid of this offensive intruder. He is especially appalled that she might interfere with his plans to first convert then court a beautiful but anti-religious co-worker at his work-study job. He comes to learn much about faith and love from both even as he reassesses his vocation as RH helps him solve a great mystery. Although—to date—neither Archy nor Ruby have let the Arthur author know exactly what mystery is. I guess they want to surprise me. But in spite of how they are currently treating me, I think I can predict they will ALL get their needed Christmas miracle!
Bonus Epic Keytar Win Award:
Starting out Naked
Synopsis: I’m making it up as I go along.
Excerpt: “Red’s MP3 player began playing a song he did not like, so he reached into his pocket and pressed skip. That was when the Devo came on. If there was something that Red liked, it was music from the 80’s. Of course, he had not ever lived then, but the music had a great positive feeling to it (even the sad stuff) that you just did not get in pop songs today.
That was the exact time and moment that Red saw the keytar. It stood prominently displayed in the music shop’s window, and he knew in all of his heart that he wanted – nay, he needed – that keytar. Perhaps it was the Devo; perhaps it was the inspiration of seeing the homeless man play his cello. Perhaps it was something else altogether. That did not matter. Red needed the keytar.
That was, until he was adhered to the window, staring at its beauty. Red saw the price tag on the keytar. Seven hundred dollars, twenty – nine cents, plus tax. That was a crap load of money, and that was not the kind of crapload that Red had handy.
But its keys, the keys shined white and black, contrasted perfectly by the glossy red body. The strap hung limp but bold against the white background of the display, and Red could have sworn that it was glowing. It was perfect, and it was suddenly all he needed in life…
He needed the money.”
Bonus Award for Best Disclaimers:
The Winter King
Author: Chris Baty
Region: East Bay, Calif.
Excerpt: “This is the story of the Winter King, and how I saved him. And how he then forgot that I saved him, and claimed that I kidnapped him. This story starts in a castle, travels to the jungle, and then moves back and forth several times to different castles which look sadly much like the original castle.
There turns out to be less variety in castle building plans than you might hope.
All of this story is set in England, including the jungle portions, which should have been set in Africa, or, at the very least, in Costa Rica, but which are also set in England for budgetary reasons. Also, the pygmy goat used in the jungle scene is just a regular goat wearing small shoes.
Just so you know.
And now let us move along to Chapter 1.”
Bonus Brevity is the Soul of Awesome Award:
The Voyage of Cellar Door
Author: Dominic Knight
Region: Seattle, Wash.
Synopsis: It’s an Intergalactic Space Pirate Romance.
[Lindsay Eanet via Paste Magazine]