It's nearly time for National Novel Writing Month 2002
October 22, 2002 8:34 PM   Subscribe

It's nearly time for National Novel Writing Month 2002 This was discussed in detail on mefi last year, and plenty of interest was shown. Now you should take it to the natural conclusion: a collaborative novel attempt. It might be bending the rules a little, but surely Metafilter users could come up with 50,000 words between them in a month. Maybe this is short notice, but I'd like to see an attempt...
posted by tapeguy (45 comments total)
Is fuckwit one or two words?
posted by goethean at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2002

one word.
posted by brina at 9:14 PM on October 22, 2002

We started here already.

On a less (or perhaps more) flippant note, I have no doubt that MetaFilter users can (and do ) come up with 50,000 words between them in a month. Whether or not they make any sense is another question altogether.
posted by yhbc at 9:19 PM on October 22, 2002

Ooooo! I'll start:

CALL me Fuckwit. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me in real life, I thought I would surf about a little and see the watery part of the internet.
posted by Stan Chin at 9:20 PM on October 22, 2002

This actually sounds kind of interesting and i'de be all for it, but i don't know how we could all combine to write one novel, unless its a collection of short stories. In college, we do something kind of like this called tandom writings where one person writes something, the next person reads that and responds, the next person reads the initial writing and response, and so-on. Just ideas...
posted by jmd82 at 9:20 PM on October 22, 2002

Upon reading Stan's link, scratch my stupid ideas.
posted by jmd82 at 9:23 PM on October 22, 2002

So this book would be about pancakes. And ponies. And, unlike most other books, it would vibrate...
posted by contessa at 9:35 PM on October 22, 2002

I dunno about any of the other MeFites who NaNoWriMo'd last year but I had a grand good time writing like a madwoman for the month of November. I made the 50,000 words in 30 days, but I was only half-way thru. So I slept for a week, cleaned the living room for the holidays (which was worse than writing 50,000 words in 30 days), and then in January I "finished" the novel at the same breakneck speed by writing another 50,000 words in 30 days. ;)
Collaborative doesn't make it for me. I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I may be writing solo, but with some 5,500 other whackos to keep me company.
Dare ya to join us!
"Pony" up, contessa---let's see ya write that one! LOL!
posted by realjanetkagan at 9:55 PM on October 22, 2002

Jesus, Janet, you FINISHED? And then DOUBLED IT? You're a sick ticket. Here's some of my notes from my running commentary last year (I was posting the novel online as it was written, and no, I'm not going to link it here):

11/10: Hmm, this bitter would-be novel has veered into caustic farce. Who knew?
11/10: I'm only 10,000 words behind. That's quite a few words. I'm gonna make it out of the hole though. I have the will. The new radical vegan plot has really opened things up for me. Wow, I've never said THAT before.
11/17: Ruh Roh
11/19: This novel is becoming a novella.
11/21: This novella is becoming a short story.
11/28: Whoops! HA HA HA.

I'm a Nanowrimo loserdog.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:51 PM on October 22, 2002

huh... wasn't it just 40k words last year?
posted by delmoi at 10:53 PM on October 22, 2002

RJ Reynolds and delmoi: Uh, maybe you're not getting the point of this NaNoWriMo thing? Chris Baty is raising a palace coup against That Goddam Internal Censor! Sounds like you both almost made it last year. You applied butt to chair and you wrote.
That's what counts.
You can't write good until you've written gawdawful. Gawdawful can be rewritten up to good.
Come on over and join us.
Folks, there's a 13-year-old doing this AGAINST parental dictum---and a 60-year-old and a friend of mine who's a year younger than I am (I'm 57) who's always wanted to write and who's gonna do it now (YAY!) and I'm still working on an 80+ year-old to come and play with us, because I'd love to hear what stories she has to tell....
You don't have to post your NaNoWriMo, you don't even have to read your NaNoWriMo, but if you've always wanted to write a novel, now's your chance.
posted by realjanetkagan at 11:20 PM on October 22, 2002

If there is some organized effort to do the collaborative writing suggested in the post, I'll be happy to try and toss in a contribution.

However, I'm going whole hog again this year and writing my own damn novel. And I'm gonna finish, this time.
posted by cortex at 11:32 PM on October 22, 2002

delmoi- it was 50k last year.
I'm going to do it. I plan to write 50,000 words of nonsense. It couldn't be worse than what I wrote last year, and not having to deal with things like "plot" or "character" should give me a bit of leeway in the writing department.
posted by dogwelder at 11:40 PM on October 22, 2002

A quick look at my blog archive back-up file shows around 53,000 words since late March. To be fair there are some other people's comments and a good deal of formatting factored into that count, but heck - that counts right? Maybe I should slap a cover on it and call it a novel.
posted by willnot at 11:49 PM on October 22, 2002

Erm. I'm doing it, but I think I cheated. I started today. Well, ok technically I started a month ago, but what was then a fairly weak short story has added a bunch of layers and metastasized in my head into a pretty clearly three-act-structured thing that keeps whispering "novel" in my ear while I'm mowing the lawn.

So, while totally failing to follow the rules, I consider myself a competitor in spirit and will milk this thing for all the motivation I can.
posted by rusty at 11:51 PM on October 22, 2002

call it a novel

Memoirs, willnot. Then you'll get published in a jiffy.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:52 PM on October 22, 2002

i hate to be the person who says this. really.

it's not the number of words that counts.

it's their quality. when stacked up against one another. it can take years. it almost does, if you are talking about a novel anyway. it's not a fun, social activity. it is the opposite for most talented writers. it has nothing to do with "That Goddam Internal Censor," -- unless you have attended a decent school where a few strunk and white-style lessons were beat into you until you bled. then you might have a decent internal censor.

everything else is journal writing. or a circle jerk.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:55 PM on October 22, 2002

sirmissalot: Amazingly, you're the first person to ever mention that creating real art is hard. I guess NaNoWriMo will have to fold up shop and go away now. That's a shame.
posted by rusty at 12:15 AM on October 23, 2002

well, rusty, i wasn't under the impression that "NaNoWriMo" was only for people who didn't work for their art. not quite sure what you're getting at. but i have a feeling it is self-justification. *just a guess*

get published. and not in a blog.

don't mean to be a dick. it's just that it gets tiring to see the division between self-love and real art get blurred by the ease of publication made available by the World Wide Web.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 12:33 AM on October 23, 2002

I don't think many people are expecting the Great American Novel (TM) to come out of this, sirmissalot. I think its more of the celebration of the process and excercise of writing, and sufficient motivation for people to practice. In which case you are correct, it is "self-justification" and "circle jerking." And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

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.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:53 AM on October 23, 2002

point well taken. there is something to be said for going after the prize, even if the prize is out of reach. and even if the prize is totally subjective. given that, writing is not magical. and it is not interesting to everyone else, just because you've put you've put it on paper (or in html). i really, really, don't want to discourage people from trying -- rather i'd like them to raise the bar.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 1:01 AM on October 23, 2002

I didn't hear about this for any of the previous years, but I'll be making my attempt this year.

Personally, I think it'll be a blast. Will I make the goal? Not the foggiest, though I'm having fun brainstorming and coming up with ideas to play with. And for me, setting the bar at 50k words in 30 days is setting it high enough. If I was worrying overmuch about quality, editing, and all the rest of the finer points that can turn a series of words strung together into "art", I'd never get done, and possibly wouldn't get started.

Oh, and sims - while I understand your points, I don't think that what you're concerned about is really the point of NaNoWriMo. From the NaNoWriMo FAQ:
If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

There are three reasons.

1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.
posted by djwudi at 1:50 AM on October 23, 2002

i think i'm going to try too--but what could be fun and interesting would be for us here to do a virtual exquisite corpse thing with phrases or sentences. (There would just have to be a way to hide the previous phrases...maybe a form where you put in your sentence or phrase and it gets added on elsewhere?)
posted by amberglow at 6:09 AM on October 23, 2002

This is a really cool idea. My wife and I have just taken on the job of winter caretakers of the Overlook Hotel, a resort in a remote area of Colorado. It's closed from November 1 to May 15, because of heavy winter snows. The duties are light, and my thought was that this would give me lots of time to write, without distractions. NaNoWriMo sounds like a fun way to begin. As they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:14 AM on October 23, 2002

amberglow: funny you should mention...
posted by ook at 6:18 AM on October 23, 2002

Oh my, Slithy_Tove, please stay away from any axes that might be lying about.

Anyhow, I'm joining up as well. THe great thing about this is actually producing something. It releases the worries about great product and lets you flow freely.
posted by Hall at 6:38 AM on October 23, 2002

I made 52815 words last year and I'm signed up again this year. It was a bitch to make myself at least met my goal of words per day, on top of writing for my journal, and the site I was writing for at the time, but, I did it.

I signed up again this year, but, I probably won't hit 50,000 words. My husband is going to school now and home a lot more, so, I won't have hours upon hours to sit here, alone, and write.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:11 AM on October 23, 2002

Can I turn this into NaScreeWriMo and write a screenplay instead? I think I would enjoy that more, because if I tried to write a novel, I'd just turn into Stephen King and write a bunch of scary scenes and never finish. Do I still get to sign up? Do I have a page limit instead of a word limit? Or will I be relegated to my little screenwriting corner without friends?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:13 AM on October 23, 2002

_sirmissalot_ - I think part of the point of this is to get people writing. No matter how much of an art there is to writing, you don't get good at any art without practicing, and this is a great way to get some practice, even if what's written isn't publishable. Raising the bar, well, I think part of the reason more people don't write (I'm of the thought that the more people who write, the better - more writers, means more readers) is because the bar is already pretty high, esp. for something like a novel (even a short one).

That said, I'm a 'published writer' of fiction, attending grad school for fiction writing (if that even means anything), who recognizes that writing is hard, serious work, and I'll be participating! Writing should also be fun, and something that everybody should feel encouraged to do.
posted by drobot at 7:34 AM on October 23, 2002

sirmissilot: the only way to have 'strunk and white style' lessons imparted is by going to school? How about reading Strunk and White?

A whaleship was my Yale College and my Harvard.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:37 AM on October 23, 2002

I did it last year and I'll be doing it again this year. I found it to be a great exercise in creativity. I didn't do much of anything with last year's Nanowrimo novel, and I don't know that I'll do anything with this year's novel either. Chris Baty sums up what I got out of Nanowrimo in the FAQ:

the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self.
posted by maurice at 7:59 AM on October 23, 2002

After she tried on her new spectacles, Aunt Priss had some shocking news "I have legally changed my name to Scooby-Doo."

Uncle Ira was not amused.

I like it! thanks ook!
posted by amberglow at 8:15 AM on October 23, 2002

i've signed up for NaNoWriMo. i'm not a writer in the slightest, so it'll be interesting. i think i've got enough of a plot to fill up 50,000 words though. i'm excited for next month!
posted by mabelcolby at 8:50 AM on October 23, 2002

I'm gonna do this too. Finally, a chance to try and write an entire book in James Ellroy's staccato style. I am nuts.
posted by owillis at 9:06 AM on October 23, 2002

Definitely do a screenplay...

I'm doing NaNo too, and making my boyfriend do it with me. But as he's a graphic designer, he's taking the opportunity to write/draw 50 pages of a graphic novel.

Both of us are using it as a kick in the butt to finish up ideas we've had simmering for a long time. We can't wait...
posted by techgirl at 9:55 AM on October 23, 2002

I signed up today, so I will be joining all of you. I am really looking forward to it. I did the 100 Words thing recently and it was an amazing experience. Hopefully this will be more of the same. If you are jittery about 50,000 words, you might want to give the 100 words thing a try first. It goes every month, not just once a year. Good luck to everyone...
posted by jopreacher at 10:14 AM on October 23, 2002

i think i'm gonna give it a shot. i did 17 thousand words in 24 hours for the blogathon a short while back. 50 thou in a month should be a piece of cake.

erm, ya right.
posted by dobbs at 11:06 AM on October 23, 2002

i've signed up. i see it as an excercise in stream-of-conciousness. if you just type and type and type without thinking about what you are writing, it might be as good as a million monkeys...
posted by o2b at 11:31 AM on October 23, 2002

dogwelder: "Pork: It Won’t Kill You if You Cook it Properly"


amberglow: Neat. Though the current Scooby slash fiction is a little lacking. Time to derail^H^H^H^H^H^Hcontribute!
posted by cortex at 7:32 PM on October 23, 2002

I can't resist this. Even though, if successful, on December 1st I'll have a 50,000 word comic book rather than a novel. Which I can then spend the next seventeen billion years illustrating.
posted by mumbletiger at 9:01 AM on October 24, 2002

"get published. and not in a blog." ---sirmissalot

Been there, done that. I've got three published novels (including one that made the WaldenBooks' bestseller list), not to mention the shorter stuff (including those that got me my Asimov's Readers' Awards, my MZB Cauldron Award, my Nebula nomination and...oh, yeah...that Hugo that sits on my mantelpiece), to my name.

I had a ball doing NaNoWriMo last year. LOL! Who knew I always wanted to write a Donald Westlake comic heist novel (set on another world)? So much amazing stuff came from my fingers last Nov. without the intervention of my conscious mind that I am still astonished. Even if I can't bring off the book in heavy rewriting, I'll be mining it for short stuff for years to come.

This year I'm going into Nov with a sorta kinda plot and some characters I like enormously. Dunno if that'll speed me up or slow me down but I am *so* looking forward to the try...!

sirmissalot, too many people I know are too afraid to try writing because what they write might not be perfect. Here's a clue: no writer EVER wrote the perfect book/story/poem that was in his or her mind. But your reader can't see what was in your mind's eye and can't see how far you know you fell short of getting it down on paper the way you saw it. Your reader can only appreciate what you DO get down on paper. NaNoWriMo is about getting a first draft down on paper. Next month (and for many months or years after that), we rewrite.

Just off hand, sounds to me like you're too afraid to try. I'm going only by your comments here and by your total lack of profile. Oh, and of course your screen name---yeah, betcha you do "miss a lot"---because you won't take the chance.

For all you MeFi NaNoWriMos who WILL take the chance starting Nov 1st: Maybe we should set up a MeFi NaNos' thread where we can pep-talk each other all the way thru Nov? Please let me know where you are so I watch your word count CLIMB!
posted by realjanetkagan at 10:35 PM on October 27, 2002

Janet, your enthusiasm for writing is really contagious. This thread spurred me on to impulsively sign up for NaNoWriMo. I've always wanted to write; this is the perfect opportunity to put some artificial pressure on myself to do so.

[I knew your name sounded familiar... I was reading Asimov's Science Fiction magazine regularly about 10 years ago. Hmm, maybe I should start again.]

Oh (for anyone), am I correct in assuming that the following rule implies that we can write outlines and notes before November 1st?
Can I use an outline or notes?
Outlines are encouraged. Notes are encouraged. Partially written chapters are punishable by death.
posted by gohlkus at 12:58 AM on October 30, 2002

Best of luck to everybody who'll be NaNoWriMoing this year! Drop me an e-mail and tell me what handle you're using so I can cheer you on!
posted by realjanetkagan at 9:14 AM on November 1, 2002

Maybe we should set up a MeFi NaNos' thread where we can pep-talk each other all the way thru Nov?

So is there one? I'm in again this year and determined NOT to let my stupid perfectionist editor (and lack of a plot to back my story) make me crash and burn like last year.

(It's already fighting me, though. I sat down to do the stream-of-consciousness thing and started typing out a cohesive story. sigh.)
posted by rushmc at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2002

Okay, me hearties, on the NaNoWriMo Forums, under "Off-Topic," you will now find "Janet Kagan's Little Corner of Hell Room Party." MeFites welcome to join the others who will be bitching at me for having talked them into this ;) !
posted by realjanetkagan at 11:03 AM on November 2, 2002

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