Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving thanks for NaNoWriMo

As Thanksgiving week rolls around I am thinking of the many things I am thankful for this year. Many are the wonderful people I have in my life and experiences I share with them. But there is also something new: this year, for the first time, I am participating in NaNoWriMo and am very thankful to Chris Baty for starting National Novel Writing Month in 1999. It grew from 21 friends who thought being novelists would help them get dates to a non-profit that last year propelled 310,095 writers world-wide to create novels. Of  50,000 words. In a month. Since I am a playwright, my "novel" uses fewer lengthy descriptions, so 50,000 seems like a lot. But I will edit out all the superfluous bits when I am done and hopefully something will take shape!

I have written plays before, but most of them had built-in deadlines. This one has been waiting months - no, years - to be written. And I just could not get it started. Until NaNo. Once you commit to doing the month of writing, you can get online support in the form of pep talks from successful authors, writing prompts, online writing sprints, and most of all, a sense of community. My region, Northern Virginia, has 8,174 members, many of whom have met up at coffee shops and libraries to write, bond and offer encouragement.

Writing is, by nature, a very solitary pursuit. It has been a great comfort this month to see so many fellow Nanites writing on the Forums or on the regional Facebook page about their own frustration at staring at the blank computer screen, or feeling they have run out of things to say, or knowing - absolutely- that everything they have written is rubbish! And to see others rallying round with words of encouragement. "Just keep writing," they say, "Edit later. Get it all out." Of course having a huge number of words to write every single day means that you can't do much editing or self-censoring as you go along. I have found that very liberating!

Support and accountability are things we all need. Creative artists who toil at their computers and live in their imaginations often don't much of either. Sometimes you just need a teensy bit of incentive to get it all out and put it all down. Later you will revise and revise and revise, and share those versions with your writing circle for them to critique. But first you need something to revise!

I have about 6,000 words to go and know I will finish. Might do it next year, as well. Think about joining me. We could be writing buddies! What's the worst thing that can happen? You write 50,000 words; some of then have to be good!

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