Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I have never written an entire short story, but I have decided to write a novel in November. I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. Participants are expected to write a novel (50,000 words) in a month (1,666 2/3 words per day, according to the NaNoWriMo web site). It doesn't have to be great literature, and no one will actually read it unless you want them to. The idea is to just encourage people to write, to dispel that starting-at-a-blank-computer-screen writer's block, and get going. Your efforts may be sheer drivel, but out of that drivel, the organizers say, will come some good things, maybe even some good writing. You're not supposed to edit as you go, just write, ignoring your inner critic, and (finally) produce that novel you've always wanted to write, or at least a portion of it. (You edit in December or January.) The social support and pressure of thousands of people around the world doing this at the same time is supposed to encourage and sustain you. There are online and local support groups, tips and suggestions, and a guidebook, No Plot, No Problem! A plot is helpful though.

NaNoWriMo began in 1999 with 21 participants. Last year there were 79,000, with 13,000 finishing 50,000 words by the end of the month.

You're supposed to tell everyone you know that you are participating. According to NaNoWriMo:
Tell everyone you know that you're writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who've had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.
So, I'm telling you about my novel. It will (probably, maybe, possibly) be about a woman in her 50s or 60s, who reinvents herself several times (not necessarily successfully) as she ages and about the other people, mostly women, who influence her. A friend referred to this, in a kindly way, as a "menopause novel," and it probably is. My concept is, of course, somewhat autobiographical, drawing on my life, my mother's life, several relatives and friends, people like Elizabeth Layton, and a dreadful woman who entered my life 10 or 11 years ago, just about a year before she died, suddenly, of ovarian cancer. We collided, and I kind of ricocheted off her in an ultimately positive way. There will be cellos in my novel, of course, and chamber music groups, artists, and someone who owns a restaurant. It will probably take place on Cape Cod because I like Cape Cod-based fiction and so that, should I ever finish it, there will be a spot for it on local bookstore shelves. I'll probably write in first person, perhaps from several different characters' points of view. It won't be a memoir; it will be fiction, just loosely based on my experiences, so that I can veer off and climb Mount Everest or actually master the cello in my novel, if I choose to.

Write what you know, they say. Or, better, write the novel you want to read. My novel could easily change change direction completely, of course. Fictional characters do have a way of going off in their own directions.

I do not intend to blog the novel as I write; I am quite sure it will need significant editing before it sees the light of day. I don't really expect to reach 150,000 words either. Even though I tend toward long, verbose posts, 1,666 and 2/3 words every day are a lot of words, and I am already a little overextended. But this is something I have always wanted to do. I do spend a bit of time on the Internet; perhaps I can convert that time into a novel-like substance.

As required, I will not begin writing the novel in advance of the November 1 start date, but I have, as recommended, started jotting down some notes and trying to figure out a plot and define some characters.

Mostly, though, I am reading other people's novels for inspiration. I just finished George Hagen's
The Laments and starting Andromeda Romano-Lax's (what a name!) novel inspired by Casals: The Spanish Bow. One of these days I would like to write a novel based on an historical figure in music. I loved Marrying Mozart, for instance. But I don't think NaNoWriMo is the time for that. An historical novel requires at least a little time for research.

Oh, and I also signed up for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. All you have to do is post to your blog every day in November. This one I'm sure I can do. I don't think there are any length or content rules. I have looked at the blogs of random participants, and they seem to be bloggers serious about their content, not people who would post "I blogged today!" and call it a post. There are various self-identified subgroupings of bloggers. I joined the one for people doing both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, though I don't think anyone in this group will have much time for posting there. There is another group dedicated to commenting on other participant's blogs. There is a music group, but it seems to be for those who like to embed or link to music clips, rather than create it.

This particular post is over 900 words. Maybe it won't be impossible to write 1,666 and 2/3 words a day--at least once or twice.


cellodonna said...

Tempting ... but that's a lot of words.

Have fun with it. And keep us posted on your progress.

Gottagopractice said...

OK, you are certifiably crazy. I love a good mid-life crisis!

Maricello said...

It's fun to have one (a midlife crisis--and I am glad 60 counts as mid-life!) and write about it at the same time. I've always wanted to write a book. I did co-author one (it's on Amazon), but that's not the same.

There are multiple offshoots of the original novel-in-a-month concept. You can write a screen play, do art projects, etc. Maybe Cellobloggers can come up with one: practice every day in November, or practice every day for a specified time, or according to a specified plan.

Marisa said...

Wow, and people accuse me of being ambitious!
Have a happy challenge.

Maricello said...

Thanks Marisa, but what you are doing, going back to college, is far more ambitious and productive than what I am doing! And you have to submit your work to other people to be graded. I am just writing for my own amusement. I look at it as practicing writing, or "noveling," as they say, and it is only a 30-day commitment.

CelloGeek said...

I'm really impressed by all of your various creative endeavors. Good luck with the novel!

It was a dark and stormy night....

(that is my level of creative writing....)

Maricello said...

Thanks, Cellogeek. I have considered starting my novel with those words!

In words from another novel (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Wells): "Life is short, but it is wide." Enjoy it!

Guanaco said...

They ought to have an offshoot of the NaNoWriMo in which all the books start with that phrase. At least it would get everybody started at the same level...

Maricello said...

An excellent idea, Guanaco!