Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo

For anyone who didn’t know, today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write 50.000 words during the month of November. My former professor and member of my personal pantheon of interesting minds, Roger Lathbury, did it a couple of years ago.

But what about this, then? To actually write 50,000 words in 30 days? Let’s break that down: it’s about 1700 words a day. Can I do it? Sure, I can write 1700 words a day.

In reality, I’ve probably written 5000 or more words in a day many times – but then likely spent the next several weeks marveling at where the heck that came from.

Generally, I’d guess that a single manuscript page for me comes in at about 200 to 300 words so, at that rate, 1700 words would probably clock in at about 5 to 10 pages. I read in an article about Twitter that Susan Orlean, a prolific tweeter, has a goal of 1000 words per day just in general. But since she gets paid pretty well for those words, if I were her, I’d make sure I got that much down, too.

Mediabistro’s Galleycat has far too many tips on how to deal with National Novel Writing Month – it seems to me I could probably get in at about 500 words in the amount of time it took me to read them. But here’s the link, anyway. The best one, for my money, is dictate. I’ve been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking – and am using Dragon Dictate for Mac as we speak, so to speak. The accuracy is pretty amazing, and my favorite part about it is that depending on how you set it up, it will format stuff for you. As an example, I really hate typing “5 o’clock.” It will also deal with the caps on something like New York, NY, formatting it correctly. I also like the recommendation to use a name generator. Especially for peripheral characters, I have a bitch of a time with character names. And it’s kind of hard to use the Garp (if you’ve never read the book, never mind) method – the phonebook – because I don’t really have a phonebook anymore. But I haven’t used a name generator, yet.

But what this really comes down to, is will I do it? What else have I got to do? (That’s meant to be ironic.) What with working on becoming a publisher and trying to find a job and all that. But I had an idea last night that could turn into something. Or could turn into nada. But everything starts as nada, nest paws?

So, for me, coming anywhere close would mean:

  1. Hoping no squirrels come around, because I am so gone.
  2. Not insisting on editing myself line by line.
  3. Just getting the damned thing out, and not worrying right now about whether it all adds up and is air-tight.
  4. Repeat #3.
  5. No research rabbit holes.

So if that’s going to work, then it can’t be cute, it can’t be overly literarily ambitious (a rabbit hole in itself, not to mention that just saying those two -ly adverbs together doesn’t do nice things to the mouth), it would pretty much have to be plot driven, and it would help if it were some kind of mystery.

Why a mystery? Mystery to me. So here’s day 1 activity. Almost 1700 words. Yay, me.


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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

4 thoughts on “Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo

  1. Sorry, but I don’t buy into the NaNoWriMo mystique. It seems like “stunt writing” to me. I realize that many writers seem to get some motivation from this arbitrary goal, but I get motivation from getting the words exactly right. I’ll leave this for others and stick with what works for me.

    I wish you good luck, though. If it works for you, all to the good.

    • I can’t really argue with you, Paul, but I appreciate your reading. I don’t know why I decided to do this, except to try to do something that wasn’t the usual Stephen Stark stuff. Generally, 50,000 words equals about half or a third of a novel for me, and I am a PAINFULLY slow writer. The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door took me something like eight or nine years to write. Its successor, which I’m still working on, and which also gets into some speculative stuff—I promised myself I’d have it done in two years. It’s now been 6 or so. It’s almost there, but close don’t count, as they say, except in horseshoes. Which is to say that I am a really, really careful writer. Shannon Ravenel said that she felt my work was really written and didn’t leave a lot of room for editing. And I’m a writer who likes editing. In one sense, this is a stunt. That’s not to say that I’m not trying to write a good, short novel. But I’m also trying to sell my work, my extant work, and the plan for that (I am trying to come up with a business plan, actually, to do this) will become evident in these virtual pages in days to come. I don’t have a job, and I’m looking for one, but I’m also (kind of desperately, actually) trying to make my work my job. I have spent more money on it than I’ve made (I haven’t made a dime, nickel or penny, yet), but what I’ve got right now is time. I’m doing the best I can to make the best use of that great asset.

      Feel free to comment, if you like, on the story itself. Thanks for the comment, and I actually do know where this came from—Time for a new post!

  2. I tried NaNoWriMo in 2004, 2005? I got to 17,000 words and then life intercepted. But it was incredibly fun, and 17,000 words made me proud (and 17,000 words are stuck on a backup drive somewhere). I’ve always loved the concept to just get it on paper (screen); I write well under pressure.

    • Steve, I’m typing this on an iPhone. I’ve been without power from the hurricane since Monday. Good story based on a single image. Reminded me of Holden Caulfield’s stream of consciousness. Great line about the used car salesman. I’ve been free writing lately, just vomiting out words, looking for ideas in the images, phrases. It really works.

Tell me what you think. Seriously.