fact 184 – down the rabbit hole (NaNoWriMo 2013)

2013 NaNoWriMo Participant Banner well, i’m supposed to be writing a story right now. or maybe finishing up my translation of chapter 2 of kokui no kishi, or perhaps knitting my friend’s hat, or my aunt’s shawl, or even my own shawl. but instead i’m thinking. about NANOWRIMO! which i guess should actually be called interNaNoWriMo now, since we’ve got participants all over the world. for those of you who don’t know, basically what happens is this: you write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days, and at the end you put your fingers on ice and pass out, secure in the knowledge that you’ve finally written that novel you always said you’d write “one day.” anybody can participate, and the number of words you write is self-reported, so i suppose you could cheat if you really wanted to, but honestly, there aren’t any tangible rewards, so it’d be like bribing the customs officer so you can be the first one in the duty free shop on the ferry from Sweden to Denmark. anyone who passes 50,000 words is considered a winner, and there’s a fancy PDF certificate you can print off if you win, if you’d like, but really it’s more like a marathon, where you pay a fee (in this case, you are strongly encouraged to donate) and then you work your butt off for the entire course of the race, only to drop dead at the end of it in some adrenaline-induced stupor, somehow proud of how harshly you’ve treated yourself. i’ve done it for 8 years in a row now, and this will be my 9th “win.” yup, i’m declaring now. i’m going to win. (^_^) that’s not to say it’s going to be “readable,” or indeed that any of my previous efforts have been such, but they have all been over 50k words. it’s not about readability with NaNoWriMo. the little-known, deep, dark secret of fiction writers everywhere is this: first drafts suck. no one ever has ever written a great novel on the first try, and the number of people who have even acheived “good” on the first try is so vanishingly small that one wonders if they aren’t both aliens. what really happens is this: you write your first draft in a series of sweating crying fits if you’re lucky, and then you lock the thing in your darkest desk drawer, telling yourself you’ll come back to it later. at this stage, you’re (rightfully) too embarrassed to admit you’ve even read the thing, nevermind telling the world that its existance in this dimension is your fault and yours alone. perhaps in 12 or 18 months you’ll come back and realize that the one sentence round about word 30k actually wasn’t half bad, but that’s in the future, and is only for the brave. so (inter)NaNo is not about producing great fiction. it’s about producing 50,000 words of fiction. * nevermind if you’ve created a plot hole big enough to sink the Titanic in, who cares if your characters are the century’s least likable, no one will pillory you for authoring the one phrase that will send the aliens crashing into this planet after their monitoring software alerts them to its existence. the point is, these words, these shiny new words, have been written. by you. and that’s a good thing. * or non-fiction, or short stories, or memoir, or whatever. we’re not sticklers. i’m re-writing japanese folk tales this year. also, ps, for those artsy types out there, there’s the 30 characters challenge, where you create 30 different characters in 30 days. to my mind that sounds even more challenging than the 50k words thing, what with thinking up backstory and getting drawn into 30 different worlds, but i am and always have been a writer, so what do i know. (shhh.) anyhow, that one seems to require pre-registration, but i’m sure tumblr has a massive community of those people (“those people” (^_^) ) so you can start here (my brother’s tumblr) and then maybe mosey over here (posts tagged with #30characters) and then i dare you to climb your way out of that rabbit hole. .

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