General Protection Fault, by Jeff Darlington

General Protection Fault, by Jeff Darlington.

The thing I like most about the World Wide Web is that because entry into the medium is relatively cheap (relatively when compared to other publishing mediums, not when compared to, say, the price of milk) it’s possible to just try something and see how it all shakes out. The penalty involved with “failure” on the web is usually that nobody shows up. That’s pretty low-risk compared to the penalty for publishing failures in the real world, which generally involves suffering considerable financial loss.

One of the best examples of the Let’s See How This Shakes Out school of publishing is National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo” for those of us who can’t be bothered to spell that out every time we refer to it.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Well in 1999 a bunch of people got together and said “let’s see if we can write an entire novel in one month.” So they all tried. And in 2000, they tried it again… and more people heard about it, and joined up. And in 2001, that larger group tried it again, only this time more curious and decidedly masochistic people joined them. And in 2002, they tried it again, with even yet more people joining the fray, And in 2003, they tried it again — and that’s when I heard about, and joined up, and strong-armed two friends into joining as well… and in 2004, and again in 2005 — each year the lunatics who invented it put up the website, managed the registrations, provided the software that actually tabulates the wordcount of your entry, and each year more curious and enthusastic would-be novelists joined in on the fun…

… why? Just because. Because it seemed like something to do. And that something grew far beyond what they expected to get out of it.

The rules for NaNoWriMo are pretty simple:

1. On November 1, 12:00AM (in your time zone), start writing.

2. On Novermber 30, 12 Midnight (in your time zone), stop writing.

3. To “win,” you must have written a story consisting of at least 50,000 words.

That’s it.

Although 50,000 words isn’t really considered a full-length novel in publishing circles, 50K is a lot of words to write in a month…. and if you can write 50K in one, you can probably write 85K (which I think is the actual word length required for a novel) in two. NaNoWriMo is the Iron-Man Triathlon of writing, where the three competitions are Writing, More Writing, and Hey You, Don’t Stop Writing.

I adore NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s open to anyone who cares to give it a try, it makes no pretence at being important, and despite the considerable amount of anguish involved, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And the exhilaration you feel when you actually meet that goal is…


… exhilarating.

OK, so I couldn’t think of a better word. That’s what National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo) is for.

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