Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo Here We Go

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who do NaNoWriMo and those who do not.

What is NaNoWriMo? I'm glad you asked. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's a voluntary act of craziness whereby participants pledge to write 50,000 original words during the month of November.

What do you get if you "win". The right to say you did it. And you get to change your website badge from "participant" to "winner". That's it. No writing contract. No money. No fame. Just the satisfaction of showing yourself and the rest of the world that you can do it.

In other words, it is the literary equivalent to running a marathon.

Why am I doing it? Oh, well that's a whole other question. First, this is absolutely the closest I will ever get to running a marathon. I don't actually run IRL, but I am happy to take the metaphor and run with it.

Next, I have a project that I've been wanting to get on paper (or on disk, as the case may be). It's a story that I know well and have been meaning to write for a long time. This seems like the perfect opportunity to splatter my shitty first draft all over my screen.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. As their website explains, "The Kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly." For me, personally, it's a chance to tell my extremely vocal inner editor to shove it for 30 days. My goal is to let the writing take me where it may.

Last week, Mary Scruggs, a writing teacher from the famed Second City, talked to us at Off Campus Writers' Workshop (OCWW) about an improvisation game called "Yes, and …." One of the golden "rules" of improv is that you are to take what others say, acknowledge it and build on it. In other words, be supportive of your fellow cast mates and what they want to say. Mary pointed out that writers tend to hear our inner voices and respond with "No, no, no, no, no." What if, instead, we listened to our inner voices — our characters — and responded with "yes, and …"? Where could that take our writing? Would we go places we've never gone before? In other words, be supportive of your characters and what they want to say.

I'm looking at NaNoWriMo as one big experiment in saying "yes, and …" to my inner voice.

A writer friend who I have only met online, the fabulous Lisa Romeo, suggested that we partner up for this year's NaNoWriMo. When she asked, I jumped. First, I respect her as a writer and teacher, and if she thinks it's worth doing, then I believe it is. Second, it's always better to be accountable to someone. Who else would care whether I do this or not (except you, of course, Dear Reader)?

BTW, I won't be posting this month of writing here on Two Kinds of People, or even on my shitty first draft blog — SFD @ 2KoP. The whole point is to create a first draft, for me and me alone, a starting point. Then comes revision, revision, revision, editing, polishing and then … who knows. But first comes the shitty first draft.

So, tomorrow is day one. I've installed a little counter there on my side bar. That way you can all help keep me honest. Scroll back up to the top of this post to see one of the web badges designed for this year's NaNoWriMo. I'm not quite sure how that particular image relates to writing in quantity, but I hope this whole project doesn't make a monkey out of me. Here we go. Wish me luck, or tell me I'm crazy in a comment here.

Ed. note, 11/2/10: Last night, my youngest (12-year-old) son read this post and decided to join in the fun, signing up for NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program. He has pledged 50K words, too. Here's my post about it on SheWrites. Seth does not have his own blog (yet!), so feel free to leave your words of encouragement for him here and I'll be sure to pass them along.

9 comments:

pennyjars said...

Susan,

I'm so happy you're doing this: 1 because we were both writing a NaNo blog post at the same time. 2 because we both posted the same badge. 3 Because you make me extremely happy. 4 Because I just posted the first comment again--are you still spell checking?

See you in the winner's circle!

Susan Bearman said...

Holy, cow, EVF, NaNoWriMo hasn't even started yet and look at all this post has already accomplished. I mean, it's not every day that you can say you made someone extremely happy. Good luck to us both, crazy though we may be. Hey, how to you "connect" on the NaNo site? I'm Susan@2KoP

Mary Driver said...

Three years ago, I completed the goal for NaNo, and it was tons of fun. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The best part was the freedom of telling that inner editor to shut up.
I debated doing it again this year, but I really need to finish revisions on existing work before I start yet another new project. Good luck!

Jim said...

Go get 'em, Seth!

Beverly Patt said...

Go Susan! Go Seth!

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks Jim and Bev. We're working it.

Day 2: Me 5,220. The boy 1,675

Anonymous said...

Phyllis Katz said....I loved the monkey seal, and I think you will be great and its so very nice to have Seith working with you Good Luck

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks Aunt Phyllis. I'll pass along your well wishes to Seth.

Sue Swartz said...

I stand in awe of anyone who does this (so Yay! to both you and Seth). Really. I could do a 50,000 word blah-blah-blah session verbally, but to commit to paper. Truly, I am impressed.