Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thirty days and nights of literary abandon — NaNoWriMo is Coming!

- Douglas Grudzina

NaNoWriMo is Coming!
And this will be the tenth annual NaNoWriMo!
So, what are we going to do about it?

Well, if I were still in the classroom (or if I’d known about it while I was in the classroom), I’d have every one of my students register and participate. Forget Shakespeare for a month. We’ll catch up on weekly vocabulary in February when nobody cares about anything.

It’s November! Let’s write a novel!

NaNoWriMo, officially National Novel Writing Month (although in recent years it’s gone international), is an annual project in which participants attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words in a single month—November.

Well, a first draft...

Maybe the first 50,000 words of a magnum opus...

Anyone can enter. Everyone can play. The goal is to write, write, write, not sweat the “quality” (sort of like a month-long freewrite). The project’s slogan is, “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!”

The rules are really very simple: novels can be on any theme, in any genre, and in any language. Format and structure are completely up to the author. Metafiction, post-modernist chaos, use of trademarked characters—anything goes. As the NaNoWriMo site says, “If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.”

The competition starts on midnight November 1. Beginning November 25, participants can submit their manuscripts to the NaNoWriMo site to be verified for length (minimum of 50,000 words). All “successful” participants receive a PDF certificate, a “web badge,” and inclusion on the site’s “Winners Page.” Everyone who writes at least 50,000 words in the month is a “winner.” The final deadline to submit a manuscript for length verification is 11:59:59 p.m. November 30 (local time).

Novels already in progress before November 1 are not eligible to participate. Neither are pairs or teams of writers who want to “co-author” their novel.

Here’s their official site with all the real information about registering, and participating in the forums, and all.

They even have a Young Writers Program especially for writers under the age of 17 and working alone or working in a K-12 classroom setting. It has a special feature that allows students to set their own total-word-goal for the month.

(But I have to admit, I’d want to challenge my high school students to meet the full 50,000 words. With middle-school or elementary-school kids, maybe I’d be a little more lenient—just a little.)

The icing on the cake is that, starting last year, a self-publishing company teamed up with NaNoWriMo and began offering winners a single free, paperback proof copy of their manuscripts. Now how cool is that?

Remember, that a “winner” is anyone who meets the 50,000-word minimum by 1 minute before midnight on December 1.

FYI, according to Wikipedia, 50,000 words is roughly the length of novels like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Brave New World, and The Great Gatsby. (NaNoWriMo makes no claims that any of these was actually written as a NaNoWriMo entry.) To meet that minimum, participants write an average of a little more than 1,666 words a day.

November could be an awesome month in your English class, with your kids really excited about their work, sharing their ideas and progress with you and with each other, chatting with other writers in the NaNoWriMo site’s forums, and actually enjoying writing and writing and writing to meet a deadline. (And then, imagine the party you can have when the winners’ proof-copies arrive!)

As I said, if I were still in the classroom, I’d definitely do it.

You should check it out.

1 comment:

Annie Rizzuto Urbanik said...

I know it doesn't count for NaNoWriMo because all writing has to take place in November, but in talking about it around PH I decided to take all of my old journal entries and compile them into one document to see how long it was...875 pages for the four years of college.

I think I may just do NaNoWriMo simply because I love to write.