It’s November–and NaNoWriMo Is In Bloom

For the next month, my house will be crowded with strangers who will quickly become more real to me than my family. Don’t call the men in the white coats to come and take me away unless you are going to call them on the thousands of people all over the world who will find their homes invaded in the same way. We are all willing, and even eager participants in NaNoWriMo (not to be confused with alien Mork’s “Nano nano” greeting made popular in the 80s sitcom Mork and Mindy that catapulted Robin Williams to stardom.)

No, NaNo, as it is known to those who love it, is, according to the official website, “30 days and nights of literary abandon.” It is indeed. I abandon cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, sleeping, friends, family, and any other normal activity. All that matters for the month is the literary high road. Fortunately, my family humors and loves me enough to put up with me during this lofty endeavor. Although I will admit to have found them quaking in their boots at the realization that November and the “winter of their abandonment” is once again upon them.

The pursuit of this activity in a variety of coffee shops, book stores, and libraries usually raises several questions from the non-writers I encounter. One I always get is, “So when is your book going to be published?” Writing and publishing a book are two very different and distinct processes. No matter what anyone may tell you, a novel written in 30 days is not a novel as such but merely a first draft. This act of creation whether done in 30 days, 30 months, or 30 years is just the beginning.

A second question is “Can something written in 30 days be any good?” Probably not. That’s why one of my first writing workshop instructors told us, “We really shouldn’t call ourselves writers. We should call ourselves ‘re-writers.'” The first draft is only the start. Eventually, if the writer is diligent and hard-working, there may come a time when the novel is indeed ready to meet the general public. The Night Circus and Water for Elephants are just two of many whose incarnation started as a humble Nano novel. I can guarantee that they were not anywhere near publishable as a first draft. That is simply the nature of the writing beast. After November is when the “real” writing begins.

And the third most often-asked question I get is, “Where do you get your ideas and how can you possibly write that much?” As a creative writer type, the issue is deciding which of the thousands of ideas that cross my brain and characters who try to convince me to let them out of my head do I give the “Get Out of Jail Free” card this year? Where do they all come from? None of us really knows or understands. It’s something we live with and sometimes take for granted. But one thing is certain: life in our heads is never dull.

And so, along with thousands of my closest soul mates, I embark on this most noble mission: to fill the world with yet another silly novel (with apologies to Paul McCartney). Best wishes and happy writing to all of my fellow Nanowrimos. I’ll keep you posted.

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