Monday, October 24, 2011

Why NaNoWriMo?

For anyone starting to read this blog and wondering about National Novel Writer's Month (NaNoWriMo) and what it's all about, I suppose I should explain a couple of things.

First the idea is to commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That breaks down to just over the 1600 word a day on average mark. This is not about editing and polishing. This is about throwing yourself with wild abandon into the sheer act of writing. But if you're wondering about the idea of quantity over quality, I understand your puzzlement. It's really this simple: most of us don't think of ourselves as writers forgetting it's such an integral part of our lives.

For example, think about the business plans, proposals and other practical bits of every day this and that we do professionally and personally. I can't tell you how many people I know who write as a part of their everyday professional life but will tell you they are not writers. ("Really, that legal motion that won over the judge isn't writing?" "It's not the same thing.")

Think about the stories we tell each other. Maybe it was the tale of last night's trip to the grocery store when the unbelievable happened. It's answering your kids questions of, "When you were my age, did you skate board too?" and telling them about how you broke your arm riding that really slick tan colored plastic Hobie cat with the clay wheels down Deadman's hill on a dare.

They're all writing because all writing are stories - whether they're factual fiction or fictional facts.

But it's the planning that often scares folks. However, it's not always the planning. Sometimes the author is the historian, if you will. The secretary recording the minutes in the meeting between the characters with their own form of short hand to be polished up later when it comes time to insert the notes in the annual report.

Hell, that's what the other 11 months of the year are for when you think about it.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is not necessarily to get published. It's a dream for many of us, but that feeling of accomplishing something - good, bad or indifferent - that you thought you could never do that is invaluable. Putting that inner editor aside and just producing to show yourself you can is a powerful affirmation.

Today, as I recover on the couch from a bout of the flu, I started to look through my personal collection of books on Fenway Park and the Red Sox as I get ready to get started next Tuesday. Last week's trip to the library reminded me of just how many books there are on the team, players, the park, history, rules, procedures... everything. In a situation like, just where do you start? Seriously?

But in the course of answering that question, and asking the advice of some experts on the subject, I had a flash of memory that made the craziest of prompts become very simple. You see, in 1978, there was a massive food fight in the dining hall at college the day Bucky "Freaking" Dent hit Mike Torrez's meatball over the wall. A bunch of drunken college students (the drinking age was 18) had spent hours drinking beer and watching the collapse of the Sox. At dinner, one of the cafeteria ladies sent a guy in a Yankees hat to the line on the other side of the room. Given the recent popularity of the movie "Animal House," when the poor kid came out of food line, he was pelted. Chaos ensued and suddenly a prompt of catapults, trees throwing watermelons and birds throwing pickles and ice cream makes total sense.

I know which story will be told first. I will record that incident. Perhaps it will be in a different setting, perhaps not. I know the characters are now emerging and getting ready to tell me their story and, good journalist that I am, I will listen and report.

If you're up for it, join me. Take that risk. For those of you that ride this crazy train with me, thanks for your suggestions.

Oh, and Pat, that story about the cryogenically frozen head of Ted Williams may end up in there this year. It's still debating how long a story it really is and is it a coming of age or a love story. Hopefully those half-crazed Yankees fans waking up from a drunken stupor in the parking lot of a Scranton Dennys on their way to Arizona is ready to be told for real. If so, you'll be among the first to know.

No comments:

Post a Comment