National Novel Writing Month starts in less than 3 days — and kids can take part, too!

I am envious. A lot of people are getting ready to have some fun, and I’m watching from the sidelines this year. The fun I’m talking about is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, during which writers of all kinds (including people who have never written before) attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words in a single month. Fifteen thousand people succeeded at the challenge last year and six times that number of people gave it their best shot.

You might be thinking- write a novel? But how would I find the time? But what you’re forgetting is that we’re going to wake up on Nov. 5 and discover that we have our lives (and our brains, and our email accounts) back. We will be celebrating some good news. (Yes we can! Yes we will!) And we will also have more free time and mental space to do cool and crazy things, like write novels and learn to dance the salsa. That’s my hope, anyway.

My 10-year-old daughter is taking part in the juvenile version — yes, there is a “young author’s” version — and has set her sights on trying to write just over 13,000 words. (There are recommended levels for each grade, but kids can basically do what they want and older teens can hang with other kids or join the adult version. Part of what I love about NaNo is the flexibility.)

Here in Anchorage, we have a municipal liaison who met with homeschool kids last month to discuss NaNoWriMo with them. I don’t know if the local public schools are taking part (over 300 schools participated nationally last year), but I sure hope so. If you know of kids (or adults) who are interested, all they have to do before Nov. 1 is go online and sign up. There are so many fun gizmos and features on the website, including ways to track your accumulated wordcount, forums for discussing strategies, and general morale-boosting.

Straight from the NaNoWriMo site, here is what they say about the program:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

One last plug from me, if you’re still reading: I stepped into the fiction world about seven (?) years ago when my friend Ellen and I joined a variation of NaNoWriMo. This one required participants to write an entire novel in a single weekend. Partnering was allowed, which made the task somewhat more imaginable. That three-day weekend changed my life by giving me the “permission” to play at being a novelist. I wasn’t worrying about being clever, or entirely original; I certainly wasn’t worrying about grammar or spelling. I also had permission to stay up very late, ignore my family, and eat a lot of junk food in front of the computer.

Ellen and I wrote a whole lot of awful dreck, some of it funny, some of it no doubt inscrutable, some of it just possibly a little good. We didn’t finish the weekend novel, but we stretched our brains and we had a blast. And those are some of the best reasons to write, any month of the year…

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