Ranger Kathryn's Arches

November 22, 2011

But words are things



But words are things, and a small drop of ink,                                                                                             Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces                                                                                                       That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

Lord Byron, Don Juan, Stanza 88, Canto III (1821)

I compose my blog posts a few hundred words at a time — truly small potatoes. It’s time to give a huge shout-out to my fellow writers who are engaged in a crazy, wonderful pursuit: National Novel Writing Month. Let me introduce you to NaNoWriMo, in their words (in blue), from their articulate website:


National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, 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. This 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.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2010, we had over 200,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.


As of today, 80% through the writing month, NaNoWriMos have penned 2,091,577,903 words. Folks, that is two BILLION words. Novelists spend the next eleven months editing their work into readable form. I take my hat off to Julia, Brigitte, and others madly enthusiastic about their first novels. Go, writers, go!

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