I am not sure what I just got myself into. I found this writing site NaNoWriMo. It is a site dedicated to a once a year contest to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I have been full of myself about writing and well, this contest will separate the boy from the man. The contest begins on November the first and ends midnight November the 30th. It has been in existence for 10 years and last year over 100,000 crazy people competed.
At first glance, the idea of writing a novel in thirty days seems intimidating. But once I wandered around in their not so intuitive website, I discovered that content and quality are not even a consideration. Only the 50,000 words. It's all about word count. It's all about finishing with more words than the next guy. Damn silly on the surface, but they assure me I will have fun and maybe even discover that I can actually put together a story in rough form for polishing up later. Their list of past efforts that have actually been published is impressive. The only winners are those folks who produce at least 50,000 words. They do not even read the story. They toss it as soon as the word count has been verified. You only lose if you do not turn in 50,000 words.
Knowing my tendency to start something with great enthusiasm and vigor only to later fail to follow through to the end, the veteran NaNo people have some suggestions that help those of us with less nose to the grindstone qualities finish the month as winners. One suggestion is letting friends and others know you are competing. I am doing that now. Supposedly the fear of embarrassing myself in front of the World will scare me into completing the task. During the month of November I expect to have some snarky comments about how's it going, Mike? And that is okay. Go for it. Fear of failure has never really been an issue for me. I have gotten used to it.
At first I thought this just another silly Internet waste of time. But the focus is about writing and turning people onto the act of writing, exchanging ideas in the written form. NaNoWriMo sponsors a kid version also. Last year over 14,000 kids in classrooms across the country competed in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program. With the literacy levels of our kids taking a nose dive, this kind of thing is a great way to develop a love for the written word.
The rules are simple. Start from scratch on November the first. No pre-written words. Outlines are okay, but many seem to think just sitting down and writing is the way to go. There ya go, just my style. End your piece on Novenber 30. Even if the novel is not done, if you have 50,000 words, you get a spiffy winners banner to hang somewhere in a blog I guess. Strongly suggested is no editing, not even mispellings or punctuation. Just write. You can clean it up if you want or feel it is worthy later. And I can be satisfied that that one novel that hides inside me has now been purged.
As I punched in and signed up, I asked myself why I was doing this. All sorts of answers lurked. But the one that really won out was just to experience a challenge that was not so much physical or really even mental. It was both. To see if I had the will to put 50,000 words together in some kind of order and come out on the other side with something that approached readable. And it is just another whacky thing to do while playing on the Internet.