“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein,” said Walter Wellesley “˜Red’ Smith.
If you haven’t guessed from the quote above, this article is about writing a novel. Well, more specifically it’s about the great website that is going to help thousands of budding and accomplished writers write a novel in 30 days; including yours truly.
I first came upon this website when talking to a professional writer in an online forum. He mentioned it in passing so I looked it up. Basically, National Novel Writing Month (or www.nanowrimo.org) is an organization set up with the intent of liberating that novel inside all of us. The site, which is what I’ll be discussing below, is set up like a social network for participants to get you writing by way of support, advice and of course, competition.
Signing up is free and lands you with your very own profile page for the site. You can see mine here in the screenshot. Seeing as the whole purpose to this site is for the community and connections between the participants, you’re encouraged to customize yours to the fullest extent. The basics like uploading a profile photo, a short bio and links to your blogs and sites are all catered for but then the reality of what you’re taking on is also gently nudged in there.
Right across the top of your profile page there is a word count bar that stares at you mockingly, willing you on. Obviously mine and everyone else’s reads zero because the competition doesn’t start until the 1st of November. Once that date comes you’re expected to write at least 50,000 words, a novel, in 30 days. There is also a counter on the homepage that will start clocking up the words as soon as the competition starts. It combines all of the participants submissions and is sure to rise into the billions.
The “˜novel Info’ tab on you profile is where you give a brief summary or “˜blurb’ as they’re known about what you intend to write. Then there’s the “˜Writing Buddies’ section which is the equivalent of “˜Friends’ on every other social network – I suspect seeing who can gather the most buddies will become a sideline contest as it is with every other network.
Probably my favourite part of the site is the procrastination station which will attract every writer because it’s the biggest universal problem when you’re sitting in a dingy home office with a spinning chair that seems much more entertaining than a 50,000 word target. There are some cool finds such as the 2009 NaNoWriMo Wallpaper that you can see in the screenshot above, which is aimed at keeping you on track. The procrastination station also contains some other ‘help’ sections such as “˜Self-Pity and Optimism’ and “˜Last Minute Motivation’ – which act as a kind of a therapist for the struggling writer. Better than the old clichÃ©; whisky.
They also organize events and get-togethers such as the Write-a-thon fundraiser where you raise $200 and get four tickets for yourself and other writers to attend a gigantic writing frenzy in San Francisco for six hours.
Undoubtedly, the best part is the community forums pictured above. It’s full of all sorts such as professional writers, right down to the average person who wants a challenge. They help you with motivation and give tips to first time participants who may find the going tough. However, the part of the community which I’m finding useful as I research my idea for a novel is the vast amount of knowledge on the site; especially when it comes to practical questions.
For example, I saw a question from a writer about how a foreign national would go about obtaining a British passport illegally in Russia. Obviously this was to make his/her book more real. The writer was flooded with answers and tips within an hour or two – cutting out days or even weeks of research. Indeed, the site will prove a lot more useful than those useless WikiHow articles that we’ve all looked at in utter disappointment.
For anyone who has always wanted to unleash that novel that’s inside them then I suggest giving NaNoWriMo.org a go. As for me, I guess the challenge will be even more difficult as I plan to keep a regular blog on my website before, during and after the 30 day challenge. I’m chomping at the bit to get going. Let the “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon” begin!