By Angus Woodman
Illustration by Tara Fleming
My to-do list for November: rake leaves, mock American friends for their placement of Thanksgiving, write a novel.
Alright, so I may not have a yard or any American friends, but the last one is true. November is National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo, if you like — and each year people the world over join in on the fun and attempt to write their very own novel.
Now, writing something like this isn’t as impossibly stupid or stupidly impossible as it may sound. If you can read this sentence, you can write a novel. (If you can’t, go fudge a battleship cackle.) It doesn’t matter if you’ve always dreamed of being a novelist, or if you just want to impress the ladies (which, trust me, doesn’t work.) Anyone can do it. So dust off the pen and paper, throw them away, and get out your laptop.
Before you attempt this, however, a warning. There are pitfalls everywhere. Success, then, hinges on a few important, time-tested strategies.
There aren’t many times in life when the following applies, but neglect is the key to success. Forget cooking. Forget house chores. Forget washing your pants. If it’s not writing, throw it out the window (literally or figuratively.) Your friends can entertain themselves for a while. Showers are optional, but shaving can be cut.
A regular sleep pattern is good. Less sleep and some caffeine is better. Sleepless caffeinated hallucinations are best.
You are not an island. Or if you are, you are part of a large archipelago. Over a hundred thousand people will be attempting NaNoWriMo this year. There are local events where you can meet and get support from fellow writers. Though should you actually live on an island by yourself, the website houses forums where you can discuss plot points, find a quirk for a minor character, or read horror stories about what happens when you don’t backup your work.
Back up your work
Seriously. If you don’t, someone will beat you with a hammer. (And that someone will likely be yourself.)
“It’s about your mom”
You will get asked over and over (and over and over) what your novel is about. Have a one-line answer prepared. “It’s about a vagrant who finds a magical pot roast and uses it to fight crime,” or something. It doesn’t have to reflect your novel in the least, just have one ready to whip out. Also, if the one-liner is weird enough it’ll also work as an instant conversation killer, thus freeing you to return to writing.
You’re glue and it’s also glue
Lastly and most importantly, stick to it! You will want to quit. Don’t. You will think your story sucks and want to start over when you’re part-way through. Don’t. Keep going. It will get better. Eat more candy, drink more coffee, punch someone to vent your frustration if you have to, just keep writing.
If it all goes well, by December first you’ll have a complete novel. Imagine. You’ll also have a really dirty house, some relationships to mend and some rockin’ face and/or leg hair. But you’ll have written a book.
And it won’t completely suck.
Parts of it will be awful because parts of every first draft are awful but, mark my words, there will be gold in ‘dem pages. You’ll read it over and marvel at your own brilliance. You’ll see how frantic writing forces your mind to vomit up all kinds of wonderful things you won’t remember having put in there.
But unlike when that happens with food, it’s a wonderful feeling.
Learn more about NaNoWriMo at www.nanowrimo.com