Well, it’s November 2nd, and we’re already more than a day into National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. How’s your novel coming along so far? I’m working on a book of interconnected horror tales set in Portsmouth, my little haunted town on the coast. Last night I gave a brief talk and answered some questions at the local library, which is hosting various novel-writing events this month, with a quiet workspace and free pens and snacks. I thought it might interest you to include the basic text of my speech below– maybe it’ll inspire you to start tap-tapping away on your next great work!
Allow me to quote from my own t-shirt, using the immortal words of NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. “Novels are written by everyday people who give themselves permission to write novels.” Today is the beginning of an epic writing journey. Even if you don’t finish it on time, you’ll still come away with something to be proud of.
NaNoWriMo is a mission to write, and finish, a novel in the month of November. For the next 30 days, you’ll be doing your best to write a 50,000-word fictional story. NaNoWriMo is a way to challenge yourself and be part of a writing community, knowing that there are thousands of other people struggling toward the same goal. It’s a kind of competition, but it’s one where everyone can win if they put in enough effort. There are no prizes except the satisfaction of being able to call yourself a novelist.
I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2003, and I’m proud to say that I’ve reached 50,000 words every year except one. I wrote a book called The Great Typo Hunt, published by Random House, that just came out in paperback last month. It’s nonfiction, but I was able to write it using the discipline that I learned from NaNoWriMo, writing fiction year after year.
There’ll be rough spots. There’ll be times when you’ll consider giving up. But as Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” If you get stuck, the forums on nanowrimo.org are a great place to turn to for help or inspiration. A quick look at a news site might give you fodder for the next crazy plot twist. Character names can be easily found in the spam folder of your e-mail. And you can find material for your characters themselves by observing your crazy uncle, or your classmates or officemates, or the mysterious lady sitting outside Breaking New Grounds. Just don’t forget to change the names!
I’d like to wrap up with a note about this library, which has been kind enough to offer a place for quiet work on your novel. Let’s respect the space this month by staying quiet while we write, remembering that it is still a library. If you’d like to discuss stories out loud with other writers, just head over to one of the fine cafes in town. The folks at the library aren’t NaNoWriMo organizers, so you should go to the NaNo site for any general questions about the contest. And feel free to ask me anything here tonight or on the website—my handle is vincent3rd, that’s Vincent 3 R D.
Thanks very much and good luck! Any questions?
On Saturday, Jane and I took a stroll in downtown Portsmouth. It was a chilly day, as is the wont in New England in late February, but a great crowd had gathered in Market Square. Rather, I should say two crowds– one on one side of the street, one on the other. They were arguing out the heart of the Wisconsin debate in a public form, with waving signs and frosted breath.
What was a little strange, though, was that nobody seemed particularly angry or upset. The anti-union side of the street was giving chanting cues to the pro-union side. And among those anti-union signs (e.g., “I <3 Chris Christie” and “If You Don’t Like It, Quit”) were a couple of pro-union sentiments. I began to wonder if the whole thing was a setup by the pro-union side, a mock battle.
I checked my e-mail later and found a MoveOn e-mail talking about the great success of Wisconsin-related rallies nationwide on Saturday. So it hadn’t been a spontaneous gathering by any means, but MoveOn isn’t the type to fake its own opposition either.
I’d like to think that the great convivial spirit of New Hampshire infused the protesters on either side, that that was what caused everyone to keep things civil and even inject a note of jollity into the whole thing. People on the Seacoast in particular, I’ve noticed, tend to be warm and welcoming, combating the stereotype of the coldblooded New Englander. I find this entirely appropriate for a demonstration centering on events in Wisconsin, which from my experience is full of equally warm and reasonable people– the New Hampshirites of the Midwest, if you will.
As far as my thoughts on the debate itself, those will have to wait for another post. Suffice it to say that Scott Walker is a huge douche.