Monday, October 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo...or Robin Williams on a Rhino

During some of my random internet wanderings, I happened upon a blog where the writer was talking about how they joined this club type thing where they write a novel in 30 days.  Intrigued, I clicked the link and discovered the site for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

Being a visual person, NaNoWriMo gives me very conflicting visual images.  The NaNo part of it gives me fond memories of Mork and Mindy.  But the WriMo part sounds like rhino so every time I see that abbreviation I see Robin Williams on the back of a rhinoceros.  And I think that should be their logo.

So I read up on this NaNoWriMo thing and found that it is a part of a non-profit called The Office of Light and Letters which I swear is straight out of Harry Potter.  I'm still not exactly sure what they're all about but it seems like they exist to promote creative writing and encourage young people to write.  Or something.  It wasn't important for me to know so I just skimmed it.

Every November they give the world the opportunity to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  That's a lot of words in not a lot of time but I can see the advantages.  You know how if you have all weekend to clean your house it will take you all weekend?  But if some surprise guests just called you and said they're on their way you can have the house cleaned in 15 minutes.

The time it takes to complete a task will expand to fill the time allotted for that task.  That sounds like physics, I bet Einsten said that.  Or Martha Stewart.

So basically, if you give yourself 10 years to write a novel, it will take 10 years.  If you give yourself 30 days, it will take 30 days.  Sort of.  You certainly can't expect to get the thing written and edited in that amount of time but the NaNoWriMo folks know that and make allowances in their rules.

I thought to myself, heck I can write, I'll sign up and write myself a novel!  I've had book plans in the back of my mind for years so this should be a breeze.  Unfortunately I had temporarily forgotten that I don't write fiction.  I don't even know how to write fiction.

Some of the other writers on the Lafayette forum are talking about the ideas they have for scenes and characters and plots and there are outlines and interviews and notes and I'm thinking, "huh??"  I was supposed to have PLANNED for this??!  Well crap.

Still, I'm moving forward because this is something I've never tried before and how will I know if I can do it if I don't ever try?  I'm all about trying new stuff and I'm totally fine with failing new stuff too.  Fortunately there are no real consequences if you fail to complete your book within 30 days.  This is basically just for personal growth, it's not going to lower my credit score or anything.

The problem is that I don't even have a starting point.  Not even a vague idea of what to write about.  If I could just come up with a rough idea of where to start, I know I could build on it.

This reminds me of a car trip several years ago.  I don't know where we were going or why, but we had Taylor and her friend Nikki in the car with us and they were maybe 9-10 years old.  If I remember right, it was getting dark outside and starting to rain.  To pass the time we made up a story one sentence at a time.  Jayson would say a sentence then I would add to it, then Taylor, then Nikki and we just kept going like that.

It naturally progressed into a horror story and when Taylor introduced the uber-scary villian, she said in her most frightening voice, "...and his name was...The Dotted Line of Symmetry!!"

Okay, that made no sense which made it absolutely hilarious.  Evidently the girls were learning about symmetry in their math class and maybe that was horrifying for them.  I'm really not sure.  But here we are 10 years later and the Dotted Line of Symmetry (always said in a scary voice) still shows up in conversation from time to time.

When Jayson gets home we are going to play the Dotted Line of Symmetry game again and maybe that's how I'll write my novel.  I'll just build on whatever random ideas come out of our mouths.  If all else fails, I'll write a trashy romance novel that doesn't require any thought at all.  It's okay for me to say that because I love trashy romance novels.


Fickle Cattle said...

"The time it takes to complete a task will expand to fill the time allotted for that task. That sounds like physics, I bet Einsten said that. Or Martha Stewart."

This is brilliant. And I completely agree.

Shannon Green said...

I know, right? Chillingly profound.

Fred Miller said...

You're right about the time management stuff. If you think you have a book in you, or even a collection of short fiction, I'd suggest giving NaNoWriMo a try. I did it for four years. Too busy this year, but I'll get on the forum and cheer you on. Let us know if you decide to do it.