This week, we had a special guest speaker for our fiction writing classes - Chris Baty, better known as the guy who invented NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. This takes place every November, and in 2008 nearly 120,000 signed up to try and write 50,000 words during the month - that's around 1667 words a day, every day.
Chris is a great promo for the whole concept of NaNo - he talked about the realities of committing to write that many words, and while he conceded that November was a bad month for students (and teachers with grading), really there is no bad or good month for writing. You will either make the time or you won't, and obviously many do.
He had lots of information about NaNo, and told us how it started - with a group of his friends in San Francisco. I love the image of a huge bunch of them (about 20) all heading into a cafe with their laptops and extension cords and power boards, taking over the tables, ordering lots of coffee, and then sitting together, writing. I'd never really thought about NaNo before as a group exercise. After all, most of us write alone, usually in silence or with our own selection of music. But now the idea of writing occasionally with a group (I mean writing a substantial amount of words, not doing a writing exercise or two) is something I'm getting quite interested in!
In a cafe would be even better. You could set a time limit for those who wanted or needed regular breaks (for me that would be to combat computer scrunch and RSI), and those who didn't want to stop or be interrupted could sit at a different table. I also like the idea of forming an email group, although inside the NaNo website, you can team up with your writing buddies and keep track of each other's word counts there. That's a great benefit when you're on opposite sides of the world.
The one big problem with Chris's talk today was that afterwards we all wanted to go out right there and then and sign up for NaNo and get started writing. Never mind anything else!!! But one of the other things he said that I liked was about not "saving" your special big novel idea for NaNo. That's something for you to work on and develop at the right pace and level when you're ready. NaNo is simply about writing. One student said to me that she was thinking about putting her memoir aside for NaNo and just having a go at a romance for the hell of it. That's the NaNo spirit!
Now we're talking about creating a student NaNo group when November approaches, and organising weekly get-togethers. The major work for the year will be nearly over, classes finish mid-November, and really, they'd have no excuse not to write!! And neither would we teachers. Now, I don't know about romance, but I think I feel a Western coming on...