NaNoWriMo: under starter’s orders

The NaNoWriMo coat of arms

It’s NaNoWriMo time! (Ish.)

November is a funny old month. It’s too close to winter to be autumn and too far away from Christmas to be festive. It marks the beginning of Really Crap Weather (as opposed to the government-issue Crap Weather we usually enjoy in the UK), and it marks the end of daylight in general. It’s too early in the football season for it to be interesting and it tends to leave the country twiddling its thumbs and looking for something to do.

But, being them human beans, we are an inventive lot. It’s taken a few million years but in the last decade we’ve finally cracked the big question of What To Do In November?

If you are one of them British gentleman types then November now tends to mean Movember: a tremendous endeavour that has men up and down the country growing silly facial hair in aid of testicular cancer charities. I often refer to it as ‘Bollock Relief’, but sadly it’s not catching on. Either way I’m certain some amazing moustaches have made for interesting passport photos.

I already sport silly facial hair, however, as intimated in my calling card, so for me these follicular festivities are out. Instead I’m taking part in that other marvellous and recent November development: NaNoWriMo a.k.a. the National Novel Writing Month.

Yesterday saw the launch of NaNoWriMo for the Norfolk chapter. The hellish weather would have gotten a passing mention in The Bible and nearly convinced me not to go, but I’m very glad I took the plunge. (My shy side must have been having a lie-in.) The event was friendly, constructive and something of an eye-opener.

Meeting fellow participants revealed a variety of reasons for giving NaNoWriMo a go: not only to scratch a creative itch but also as a means to help with healing and recuperation. The brainstorming exercises revealed angles in my story that I hadn’t previously considered and gave me a taste of the plots and creative processes of other NaNo-ers. The launch event also demonstrated a proportionate popularity of NaNoWriMo among women (around a 75%:25% split), and, perhaps surprisingly, a large penchant for the fantastic: out-and-out fantasy, paranormal entities, mass-contagion, science fiction, horror… basically all of the shelves Waterstones keeps at the back of their shops now that porn is in (and out and in and out and in and out… you get the idea).

This was backed up by a quick scan through NaNoWriMo’s genre forums after the event. Fantasy is very much the big thing by a large margin (perhaps it has always been thus – I am a NaNo noob after all). After that: historical fiction, sci-fi and horror. Past and present literary fads don’t get much of a look-in. There’s not much being written on the clit-lit front post-Fifty Shades – not when people can clog Smashwords with it every day, anyway. Chick-lit? Not a wealthy beau to be seen. Misery-lit? Barely a sniff. Even crime, an erstwhile literary favourite, doesn’t feature. Perhaps I’m too much of a cynic, but it did surprise me.

But I digress. The upshot of this post is to say if you have a story in you and are tempted to give NaNoWriMo a try, DO IT! Sign up now, now, now, and get involved! Go to these get-togethers, knuckle down at the write-ins and chat with fellow NaNo-ers. You’d be amazed how quickly the ice breaks, and to have someone say they like your story idea and would love to read it is incredibly reassuring. And if you can’t make a get-together, hit the forums, get some writing buddies and bounce ideas around.

So now, under starter’s orders, with fingers itching to begin typing, I’ve just got to wait for the gun. And a pair of parangs. (It’s a horror story after all…)

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