November is a lot of things to different people. Bonfire night. The end of Autumn. The beginning of Winter. St Andrew's Day. Remembrance Day. Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. All important to many.
But back in July 1999, a small group of people in San Francisco began an annual project that has grown to over 200,000 participants last year. National Novel Writing Month sees writers undertaking the challenge of writing a 50,000 word manuscript (a novel of approximately 175 pages) in just 30 days.
One of the biggest draws - other than to chance to write with abandon - is that NaNoWriMo has developed a massive community vibe of support; writers spurring one another on to their determined goal. Between online forums and local meets, the chance to meet like-minded people is quite compelling for potential novelists!
I recently took the time to speak to the two Municipal Liaisons for the local Gloucester & Cheltenham area, Rae Gould and our very own D Kai Wilson-Viola.
Ben Fardon: What does NaNoWriMo mean to you? What's it about and why did you become a Municipal Liaison for the Gloucester and Cheltenham area?
Rae Gould: Caffeine, chocolate, and extension cords! NaNo is when I send my inner editor on holiday with an overflowing box of chocolate chip cookies, leaving me free to write whatever I want for an entire month. It's about getting the words down on paper (or screen, or parchment, or whatever you fancy) as quickly as you can, and having fun doing it.
D. Kai Wilson-Viola: I get more writing done because of the Nano than anything else I’ve ever done. So professionally, it’s ‘freedom’. Personally, it’s basically my whole life in some ways. I wouldn’t have met my incredible GM other half without the Nanowrimo, I don’t think. and without meeting him, I wouldn’t have moved here, and wouldn’t be writing for Proud Lion. In all seriousness, it’s freedom on so many levels for me, even though I’m responsible for the region.
RG: Well I discovered a fondness for encouraging other people to keep writing, and that being a cheerleader for others to reach 50,000 words in 30 days actually pushed me to do the same.
DKW-V: I was an ML for the whole of Scotland before we moved here, so that’s why I’m ML here now. The reason I became an ML in the first place was because I wanted to actually make sure I carried through. This is my first year with an official co-ML, so it’s going to be a lot of fun – Rae’s been my constant helper since I met her, she’s wonderful!
BF: How did you first get involved with NaNo? What's the first thing you ever wrote for NaNo?
DKW-V: I started in 2003. Joined up October 1st 2003, as soon as signups opened, and then volunteered about a week later to be ML. I found out I’d gotten ML about three hours before our first meet, a position I shared with another guy. First thing I wrote for Nanowrimo was Glass Block.
RG: I was introduced (okay, link-bombed) to NaNo after learning I was incapable of finishing more than one chapter of a novel. I needed something to break my cycle of continuously rewriting that first chapter, and NaNo was definitely a solution to that. Getting the words out in time to meet the goal is impossible if you keep changing what's already written! The first NaNo novel I wrote was a reimagining of werewolves and various creatures with the ability to change their forms, based in an ancient fantasy world.
BF: Can anyone take part or is it best suited to people who are already writing prose fiction?
DKW-V: Officially? It’s for unstarted books. You’re supposed to start writing the draft on November 1st, and it’s supposed to be the first thing that you write that isn’t plotting or research. Unofficially? I think it’s important that people go with what works for them. Squish the pesky editor and kick ass.
RG: Anyone can join, but I think to make it to the end, you have to want to write, at least a little bit. Already having some writing experience definitely helps, but it's not a requirement. Some of our fellow NaNo-ists had never written anything before joining up, managed to win their first year, and keep coming back.
BF: What is the most rewarding thing for you about taking part in NaNo?
DKW-V: Helping others slaughter their inner editor, or at least gag him or her for a little while.
RG: The people! Having regular meet-ups with other people taking part has led to crazy conversations, hysterical jokes, and more plot bunnies than any of us can possibly keep up with. All my favourite moments of NaNo come from our write-ins. (Granted, many of those moments were also fuelled by far too much caffeine and sugar, but being surrounded by writers who are just as crazy as we are makes it that much better.)
DKW-V: I love helping other people, I love the meets, and I adore the friends I’ve made via the Nanowrimo. It basically accounts for most of the friendships I’ve picked up in one way or another.
BF: Do you have a favourite NaNo creation thus far?
RG: My favourite project has to be my novel from last year's NaNo. I dropped a modern, rebellious teenager into ancient Egypt, and set her up to cross paths with the Pharaoh. The resulting chaos was far more fun to write than I expect it to be, and the main character got herself into situations I never would have predicted if I hadn't given myself free reign to write whatever I wanted.
DKW-V: My favourite NaNo has to be Glass Block, which - after nine NaNos and four re-drafts during November (as secondary books, because I write more than one!) - is out on November 12th. It’s about a policeman, and is quite a satirical and bloody look at reality TV in some ways. It’s also the start of a massive 22+ book series all set in Elliot’s universe, with Glass Block being the first.
BF: Finally, without giving too much away - what have you got planned for this year's NaNo?
DKW-V: *wince* Up to 75 connected short stories, in sets of 10, or 35 novellas. It’ll shift from short story to novella when it’s over 10k words. My overall goal is 375,000 words this year, because it’s my ninth year. Next year, if I’m still going at it, is 10 books, all from Elliot’s universe (hopefully the final ten), and a massive party.
RG: The plan is to write a story based around the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and giving it a supernatural twist. But it's worth remembering that what is planned for my NaNo projects rarely works out the way I expect it to, so I wouldn't be surprised if aliens dropped in during chapter nine.
NaNoWriMo 2011 runs throughout November. For more information head to www.nanowrimo.org or check out the Gloucester & Cheltenham region's Facebook page for details of local meet ups.
Ben Fardon is going to give NaNo a miss this year, but is planning on trying ScriptFrenzy...