November is National Novel Writing Month, an international phenomenon during which authors (or budding authors) challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.(Kids and teens can set their own word counts) Participants can create an account on www.nanowrimo.org and register their novel, friend other writing “buddies” and receive regular writing pep talks from best-selling authors such as Gene Luen Yang, Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, John Green and many others. Writing happens off-site, either by typing into a word document or crafting with good old pencil and paper, but participants are encouraged to log their daily word count of 1667 words and join in online forums for support to help them stay on track to reach their word count goal.
The Merrimack Public Library is a designated Come Write in location, which means that authors are invited to come in and write their novel here, away from the distractions of home that very often come in the form of laundry, dishes or the like. We have lots of inviting places to sit and plug in your laptop and the Lowell Room will be available during our weekend hours as well.
A few years ago my family attended a group event at church. We’d all gone apple picking together, and then had met up at the church to make as many pies as we had supplies, and the pies were then donated to the local food pantry for Thanksgiving dinners. I was showing my kids how to do this – peel the apples, slice them this thin, put them in this bowl – when I looked up at my friend working next to me. She hadn’t peeled her apples, and she was chopping them into large pieces.
Well that’s wrong, I thought. To be honest, I might have even said it out loud. And then I looked down the long table where several of us were working, and saw that – darn it – everyone was making pie differently than I was. And none of them were wrong.
NaNoWriMo is like that. There’s really no wrong way to do it. Whether you’re a pantser (writing by inspiration or “by the seat of your pants”), a plotter (plotting the entire story before writing one word of novel) or somewhere in between, as long as you’re putting words on paper, you’re adding toward the total 50,000 words of your novel. No editing, no rewriting, no critique partners. Just get that story out and on paper – you can edit and rewrite in December or January (the “What’s Next” months post Nano). NaNoWriMo is a great excuse to give yourself permission to “finally” write that story that’s been percolating while you’ve been busy adulting - attending classes, raising kids or working a 9-5 job. For thirty days, tap into your creative side and just…Play.
Ok, ok – believe me, I’ve heard all the excuses, and mostly, from my own mouth. Or more accurately, my own mind-mouth.
–I don’t have time. You do. In fact, you have more time that you think, if you cut out social media and mindless TV.
–I don’t have any ideas. You do. Probably a notebook full of random things you’ve jotted down. Or pick a headline from a news story. Or write about that relative.
–I don’t have any support. Actually you’ve got that, too, if you check out the online forums. Tell your family, roommates and work colleagues that you’re going to try this NaNo thing, and yeah, that might mean fewer nights hanging out, but only for 30 days, at the end of which you’ll have a good chunk of a first draft of a novel. Believe me, you’ll find your tribe, get support and have fun. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.
So join us - The world needs your novel!
Yvette Couser, Library Director at the Merrimack Public Library (NH), holds an MLS from Indiana University and a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She volunteers as the New Hampshire Region Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and writes thousands of words every November. You can find her on the NaNoWriMo NH Region page as wilabea94. In her life before she was a wife and mother of four, she lived in NYC, writing, buying expensive shoes, and working for a literary agent. Her one-act play, Everywoman: A Modern Morality Play, was published by Baker’s Plays, Boston in 1994.