Come on, let’s do the NaNoWriMo…

One of the things on my bucket list is to do the NaNoWriMo. Is that an exotic dance or a form of Zumba? No, though it is as frantic and crazy.

NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, which is November of each year. Participants begin writing Nov. 1.

The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, Nov. 30. A person who attempts this is called a “wrimo.” Last year, there were more than 100,000 wrimos worldwide.

“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it,” said Maxwell Perkins. He was the editor of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe, and he discovered and published Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (“The Yearling,” which won the Pulitzer Prize); Alan Paton (“Cry, the Beloved Country”); and James Jones (“From Here to Eternity”).

As Crescent Dragonwagon says, “These days there aren’t many Perkinses around, so we have to give this advice to ourselves…”

And that’s the point of National Novel Writing Month. You silence that critical voice in your head — you don’t have time for it. You don’t worry about spelling, grammar, editing or rewriting. That all comes later. What you do is enter fully and deeply into that imaginary world within your head. You go there as often as you can–you live there.

Though I have never done the NaNoWriMo, I do have experience with speed writing.

Several years ago, when I was still gainfully employed, I had a terrible bout of flu. To spare my husband my endless coughing fits and trips to the kitchen for medication, I slept on a hide-a-bed by the living room fireplace.

I had just bought my first laptop, and I was enthralled by the fact that one could sit in the dark, in bed, and see the computer screen. That was before FaceBook, you know, when we actually did useful things on our computers.

I was drugged on cough medicine with codeine, and I had days off from work. So naturally, I wrote a science fiction novel about an astronaut who crashes on a planet populated by giant brains. They were all connected telepathically and could build anything they wanted telekinetically. They cherished knowledge and empathy. Of course, being human, my astronaut messed up their world. But he found redemption in the end.

I reread this once, several years later. It’s not half bad, despite the fact that I didn’t worry about spelling or grammar or my personal time-waster: research. If I wrote that now, I’d want to know as much as a NASA scientist. But a few swigs of codeine, you know, and you don’t care.

Now, I’m not suggesting you take to drugs to do National Novel Writing Month. But if you can average 1,666.67 words a day, you can do it. Which is not that hard if you (1) have an idea of a story, and (2) don’t stop.

Some NaNoWriMo novels have become commercial successes, published by Warner Books, Ballantine and Berkley Books.

One novel, Sarah Gruen’s “Flying Changes,” was even a New York Times bestseller. Other published books include Rebecca Agiewich’s “Breakup Babe,” Dave Wilson’s “The Mote in Andrea’s Eye,” and Gayle Brandeis’s “Self Storage.”

While 2012 is not going to be the year that I do the NaNoWriMo, it occurred to me this weekend how much fun it would be to get together with people who do want to do it this year and who might need some help to get started and some support through the month.

So, on Sunday, Oct. 28, Mike Hancock and I will tell you all you need to know to do NaNoWriMo right and to avoid the pitfalls inherent in the process.

And we’ll hear from some intrepid souls who have done it.

I’ll also have two dates during November to meet with people who are stuck. If you aren’t stuck, don’t meet with me — you need to be writing.

Then, on Dec. 8, we’ll celebrate your success, analyze the problems you encountered, and discuss lessons learned.

For more information about the NaNoWriMo program of the Community Writing Program at the Writers’ Colony, contact me at or 479 292-3665.

Write On!