Society Wide Writing

NaNoWriMo Kickoff: Or, What Did I Just Get Myself Into?

Katherine Williams

Southwestern Region Associate Student Representative, 2011-2012

Even through the glitter and fake wigs from a hung-over Halloween party, November rears its head. For many writers or writing enthusiasts, November is a significant month because it kicks off the annual National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. By the end of the month, writers across the country will have completed a 50,000-word manuscript. This year, I’ve decided to take part in the writing festivities, but before I’ve even started, I’m wondering—what have I just gotten myself into?

For one, November has got to be the most stressful time of year for college students, especially for English or Creative Writing majors (as the glutton of punishment that I am, I happen to be both). November is that deep gasp of air before a student dives into a plethora of projects, papers, and other various assignments that professors give out like cheap candy. Usually, there’s nothing due in the first three weeks of November, but this is the time of year when Interlibrary Loan books must get into our hands, paper outlines must be made (figuring out what to write a ten-plus-page paper on must subsequently be figured out), and projects have got to get started before Thanksgiving holiday.

And don’t even TELL me about Thanksgiving holiday! For many students, this is the ideal time to finish projects, because professors like to make them all due the week following Thanksgiving, right before finals week. However, I like to call Thanksgiving holiday Work-Forty-Plus-Hours-In-A-Week-Eat-Some-Food-And-Try-To-Hibernate-Break. Since I work at a movie theater, any length of time considered to be a holiday is the time when I have to work the most. And since movie companies know that students (other than I) are on break, they like to release hugely popular films the week prior to Thanksgiving break: this year, on the same day, will be the release of Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 1 AND Happy Feet 2 in 3D. Let’s just say that the only thing I will be able to finish that weekend is a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and a cabinet-full of stress food. But that’s just me.

In short, NaNoWriMo, in motion in November, occurs in the most inconvenient time to write a novel. And yet I’m going to do it anyway. Not because I happen to like stressing myself out, but because I’ve decided that I can no longer wait for the “perfect” time to write a novel. This year, the “perfect” time has moved from Spring Break to summer vacation to my days off, until once again I haven’t worked on the story at all. NaNoWriMo gives me a deadline, albeit a frighteningly unattainable one, that will force me to make time to write my novel.

On to the novel…

The story I want to work on this year is something I’ve wanted to write for years, but never felt like I was ready to write it: not enough characters, not enough knowledge of mythology or themes, not enough literary experience, etc. I got started on it last year, writing only three or four chapters, then submitted the draft as part of my Senior Project for Creative Writing. Later I found out that my professor thought the story idea was terrible, and he suggested that “perhaps it would make an okay movie.”

Funny he said that, because I did end up using the story for my screenwriting class this spring. My professor, who is himself a screenwriter, actually liked the story in its film version and strongly advised me to finish it (it’s still only two-thirds finished). So now I’ve got a novel idea that’s been fleshed out in its film version, with the novel format barely even started. At least I can go back to the screenplay and use the dialogue there; that way, the novel version will be faithful to the film, and I’ve already got some of the work done. The screenplay is about 65 pages, which equals a little over an hour (one page in a screenplay equals about a minute of screen time).

I can’t guarantee that I can make the 50,000-word requirement (although I do believe in miracles). I hope that my experience with writing the novel will give other writers an idea on what it takes to write a full-length book. Sometimes it seems as though the biggest problem is not writing the book, but making yourself write it. It is all the more difficult for a college student who has a job and other extracurricular activities to attend to; plus that thing called a life, which I haven’t seen since the summer. But in hindsight, I know that writers are also busy, with their children, other jobs, their spouses, and that life thing, too. And I’ll bet that many of you Sigma Tau Delta members are also busy and probably as overwhelmed as I am. I’m not quite at the hair-pulling stage yet, but I did have a minor rage-fit the other day, so a mini-meltdown may be imminent.
On that note, let’s write a novel! Happy NaNoWriMo everyone!

“Deadlines, I love deadlines. I love the sound they make as they go whoosh-ing past.”

–Julie and Julia

Total words written: 4,176 (?) of original draft; 68-69 screen-pages (about an hour)

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