Are you taking the plunge into NaNoWriMo this year?

“National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.” – NaNoWriMo

A lot of writers and aspiring writers ask themselves one important question every year about now: “Am I going to commit to writing 50,000 words in November?”

According to the organization’s website, 306,230 said “yes” in 2017. The organization has grown since 1999 and runs multiple programs year-round. It’s larger and more influential than most of us know. Explore its website and you’ll find that there’s a lot more going on there than writing 50,000 words in November.

Yet, 50,000 words is how it began and making the commitment November 1 after all the Hallowe’en candy as worn off isn’t easy to do even though the decision is often made on a dare or during a transcendent moment of infallibility without realizing what it means to say “yes.”

I’ve been writing for a long time. Sitting here on my PC are the first two chapters of a novel that I havent touched for the last forty days and forty nights. Will NaNoWriMo help me get it moving again? It helped me finish a prior novel, though I won’t tell you which one.

Of course, one has to sign up with the organization to make it official and then tell everyone you did it. That alone makes the yes/no decision about as daunting as telling everyone on the first day of the month that by the end of the month you will have stopped smoking, given up booze, or completed a rehab program for hard drugs.

I can look at the entire process as a positive kick in the pants or as writing under the bright spotlight of a lot of peer pressure. So, if were to take the plunge this year–don’t quote me on this because I’m not saying I going to do it–maybe it’s better to do it unofficially and quietly so that if things go wrong, nobody will know. That’s how I finally stopped smoking. I didn’t tell anyone that on day X I was going to be making my one-hundredth attempt. I just stopped. After a while, people began to notice. By the time they did, I had several weeks under my belt without the pressure that I had the strength to continue.

I could do that with NaNoWriMo. Yes, I know. If I don’t tell anyone that I’m trying it out again, nobody will be around to say, “Well, Ace, so you only wrote 2,000 words by the end of the month, then?” At least everyone on Facebook won’t know. Of course, I’ll know. That’s the real problem, isn’t it?

But you, if you’re feeling brave this year, can fire off rockets, chart your word count on a daily blog, and shout to everyone who knows you on December 1, “I did it.”

Are you game?


NaNoWriMo – Try writing with a ‘theme song’

Did you sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)?

Good for you.

If you participated last year, as I did, then you’ve probably gotten a few e-mails from program director Lindsey Grant with links and advice. Here’s a crucial reminder from a recent note: Warn your friends, family, neighbors, and pets about the upcoming challenge. The more people who  know what you’re working on, the more accountable you’ll feel and the likelier you are to hit the 50,000-word goal.

Now is the time to write at flank speed. If you weren’t in the Navy, flank speed means “fast.” Others will remind you to either shoot your inner editor or lock him or her in a closet this month. You can’t write at flank speed if you’re cutting, pasting, backspacing, using the thesaurus, or playing Angry Birds while you try to think of the perfect word.

All good.

While writing my recently released contemporary fantasy novel Sarabande during last year’s NaNo, I also used a theme song. Actually, it was a theme album.

Some people go to sleep every night listening to a DVD with a selection of restful music, an appropriate radio station, or a white noise machine. The music, or the surf or waterfall on the white noise machine, quickly become associated with sleep. The sound works somewhat hypnotically…sleep…sleep.

I picked a CD with Native American flute music by Mary Youngblood. I knew it would work because I’d used it before. I also knew it wouldn’t make me sleepy. Whenever I sat down for my NaNo writing, I put on my headphones and started the music. It was a jumpstart, and it automatically got me thinking of my characters and plot.

For best results, try not to listen to your writing music when you’re not writing. That might dilute its impact during NaNo when you need at least 1,667 words a day to reach that 50,000-word goal.

I’ve written three novels using theme song music. Sarabande was the second time out for Mary Youngblood’s Beneath the Raven Moon. While writing The Sun Singer, I used a new-age instrumental album called Nivana Road by Deuter. In my case, the music had a double connection. First, it became hypnotic and associated with writing. Second, Sarabande has Native American themes and The Sun Singer has new age themes.

You may not find music that mirrors what you’re writing about. If you do, it’s a bonus. If you don’t, I’m guessing that after listening for a couple of flank-speed, NaNo sessions, you’ll soon find those word counts a bit easier to reach because you will be in the zone with your work—thanks to the theme song.


Lions, Tigers and NaNoWriMo, Oh My

“Warn your friends, family, neighbors, and pets about the upcoming challenge. The more people who know what you’re working on, the more accountable you’ll feel and the likelier you are to hit the 50,000-word goal. (And the family hamster will be a lot more understanding when you don’t refresh his chlorophyll chips as regularly.)” — Lindsey Grant, NaNoWriMo Program Director

NaNoWriMo is one of two things: (1) a popular writing program that arrives every November that encourages aspiring writers to write a 50,000-word novel in a month while posting their daily word counts on the organization’s web site, or (2) a sign that the end of the world is near.

Since it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, my alterego Jock Stewart dropped by this afternoon with a bottle of expensive Scotch and a tale of woe. He knew the that the Scotch would get my attention if the woe didn’t.

We settled down in a couple of lawn chairs to watch the traffic and the dark clouds of a real or imagined storm coming into town from Rome, Calhoun, Dalton and other points west.

“Campbell,” he said, “Lucinda signed me up to write a NaNoWriMo novel this year.”

I sipped my Talisker pensively because there are very few of us in town who drink our Scotch neat, much less a brand that makes this claim: “Deep and stormy like the ocean crashing over the rocky shores of its island distillery, Talisker is the only Single Malt Scotch Whisky rugged enough to call the Isle of Skye its home.”

The Scotch reminded me of Fiona, prompting me to say (with complete disregard for the potential impact of my words), “I once dated a lass from the Isle of Skye.”


“I once dated a lass from the Isle of Skye.”

“That’s what I thought you said.” Stewart shook his head back and forth in the way people do when they feel like it may not be screwed on straight. “Why’d you say it?”

“If Fiona and I were still dating, I’d be in sitting in a lawn chair in the front yard of Dunvegan Castle listening to the sweet lass singing Mo rùn geal dìleas rather than listening to you singing the blues about a mere 50,000 words of fiction.”

“I bet James Joyce never wrote a novel in a month,” said Jock, opting to drink from the bottle rather than his now-soggy Dixie cup.

“Of course not,” I said.

“So, how can a lesser man do what the master could not?” asked Jock, continuing to drink from the bottle while shoving gthe Dixie cup into the snake-infested broom sage that took over my yard a year ago when the lawn mower ran out of gas.

“You write ten times that much for the Star-Gazer every month,” I said, grabbing the bottle for a couple of swallows.

“Oh hell,” he said, “that’s writing the facts, telling people about all the horror that went on in the world while they were at work, or having a nooner with the secretary or shooting 8-ball down at the watering hole.”

“Make it a horror novel.”

“Does NaNoWriMo allow novels filled with true facts?”

“Sure,” I said, “the truer the facts, the more like fantasy and/or drunkeness the whole thing will be.”

“I could copy and paste my stories into a DOC file, do a little editing, and bingo, my daily word quota of 1,667  words would be done. Could I do that?”

“Sure, but don’t go blabbing about it on Facebook or twitter or some clown will yell ‘foul’ or, worse yet, other people will start doing Heaven only knows what?”

“Turning their diaries into novels,” he said.

“Turning their spam e-mail into novels,” I said.

“Turning their tweets into novels,” he said.

“When will it ever end?” I asked.

“It won’t end,” he stated, becoming a bit formal as he tried to obscure the fact that there he was, a middle-aged man slouched in a lawn chair next to a stand of rat-infested broom sage staring at the curse of NaNoWriMo. “It’s too late for it to end.”

“I know, Jock, but you can do it.”

He flipped open his laptop and skimmed through the news stories he’d written since the dawn’s early light.  “Okay, I got it,” he said. “Listen to this headline: GIRLS GIVEN EQUAL RIGHTS TO BRITISH THRONE.”

“How the hell can you possibly turn that into a novel?” I asked.

“It’s going to be a cautionary tale about the sad fact that up until a few minutes ago, women were not permitted to use the country’s restroom facilities. My heroine, the fetching Lucinda, will be accosted by lions, tigers and whatever other beasts are running abroad in England while she is doing her business.”

“Is she in the circus business?”

“Hells bells, man, she’s going to the bathroom without the bathroom. She’s out on the moor where the hounds of the Baskervilles are still running loose. She’s scared and embarrassed. I mean, who wouldn’t be, out there in your altogether when frightening creatures show up.”

“Then what happens?”

“I can’t tell you. Suffice it to say, the book will be a reality inspired bodice ripper.”

“Ah, a romance.”

“Not really. Lucinda isn’t the kind of girl who sings old-time stuff like Mo rùn geal dìleas. She’s a latrine-hating, outhouse-kicking woman who believes she can sit on the throne just as well as any man.”

“Kirkus Reviews will love it,” I said, finishing the last of the Scotch while Jock was hastily Googling a few sites for background information about latrines and outhouses.

“Who cares about Kirkus? I just want Lucinda to love it.”

“If so,” I said, carefully, “you better not use her name in the story.”

“You’ve got a point there,” he said. “This NaNoWriMo stuff is going to be a walk in the park. Just promise me to blurb the book with some family sounding schmalz so the title doesn’t come up during next year’s Banned Books Week.”

“All sweet Meghan wanted in life was a room of her own,” I said. “How about that?”

“Needs work,” he said.

–Malcolm, who wrote the first half of his contemporary fantasy Sarabande during NaNoWriMo and recalls using words stronger than “oh my” when he was fighting with his daily 1,667 word counts.