Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do You NaNo?

I do.

NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching. It's already October 22 which means there is just a little more than a week until November 1 and the beginning of the 10th year of NaNoWriMo.

If you don't know, NaNoWriMo is the crazy acronym for Chris Baty's pet project with the really long name of "November is National Novel Writing Month."

The event, its website and the corresponding book, No Plot? No Problem!, have a jubilant and, at times, silly tone -- if you couldn't already derive that from the fact that this year's graphic involves a viking helmet for no obviously identifiable reason. But it all translates into a you can do it! atmosphere, one that makes it baltantly obvious that the only obsticle to writing your novel is yourself. A fact that is true all year round but unavoidable for the month of November.

I'm both heartened and amused to see the more scholarly set of writers jumping on board this year. My experience is that the majority of NaNo-ers are genre writers ... but then again aren't the majority of fiction writers genre writers? As far as living writings go, they take up the most shelf space in book stores. Not to make value statements about types of writing or people who do writing only in one vein, but I enjoy seeing the MFAers contemplating this crazy-outside-the-box-of-notions-of-serious-writer event.

Somehow turning out 1667 words per day for 30 days while being encouraged to write drivel just to pad your word count and get on to the next thing, the next idea, the next covnersation you can go back and edit the rest later, doesn't fit with many writer's romantic notion of Hemingway in a Paris cafe.

Then again I think most students entrenched in their MFA, and most successful writers in general, will tell you there is no romantic notion, that it's simply a matter of constantly learning craft and getting the words down on the page.

That, and I hate Hemingway.

So now that I've jumped on the NaNo wagon, I just have to decide what it is that I'm going to write.

This past January I completed a different nano-style event (aptly named JanNo) and it was great. The novel I turned out was rubbish -- I went for cliche genre fiction (trust me, you don't want to read it) just to prove to myself that I could put together a plot that was that long -- but the sense of accomplishment was great. And -- bonus! -- I was so engaged in writing that I turned out two brand new short stories during that month that had nothing to do with my 50k word novel.

While I am certain that I will do a NaNo this year -- BTW don't you love how NaNo is simultaneously proper noun, general noun and verb? -- I'm still contemplating what it is that I'll be working on.

My first thought was to write 50k of literary fiction that I could possibly work into an MFA thesis -- or, better yet, try and get published in the next three years. Novels take an insane amount of time in the editing-submitting-agenting scheme of things so I will undoubtedly be on the job market before I have a published book unless I write a draft of one this year.

Anyway, the novel.

It was going to be this character moving to a new city (so that I could incorporate all my "new city" experiences into her story) because this was the city her sister had gone to college in and lived in for five years -- with all sorts of nitty-gritty issues to pick apart there.

But then I stepped back from that idea. It sounds way too much like my undergrad fiction where the character spends most of her time watching other people and delivering commentary. Gotta move past that.

My next thought was to jump into what many in my MFA program are describing as their side or pet project: a young adult novel. It would be fantasy, not because that's what's hot on the YA market (although that's a plus) but because that's what I read when I was 12. The best part of this would be that it would be a mental break from the work I'm doing in grad school but still be writing.

The next option is to go for something contemporary, something that could still be considered thesis material, but it has a little bit more plot to it. I've ened up layering a bunch of "types" into it: the return of the prodigal son, the three sisters/family story, a contemporary coming of age (or is it second coming of age when we do the adrift at 25 story?) It's set in a Detroit suburb during the month of June ... and I've only ever tried to write it in the summer months because that's when those details ring the truest to me. I wonder if I can stretch myself to write about it in bleak November?

Highly Recommended