It’s like speed dating for writing, if a speed dating session ended with a wedding. November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It started as a challenge back in 1999 by a writing group in San Francisco, and has since exploded into an online steel-cage prose match, attracting more than 100,000 would-be novelists around the world. The challenge: 50,000 words in 30 days. At stake are literary bragging rights. Once your word count has been verified by the web team at NaNoWriMo, you’re a winner. Of course, if you publish your novel and it becomes a bestseller like Sara Gruen did with her NaNoWriMo manuscript Water for Elephants —well, that’s just gravy.
But how to get to that winner’s circle? NaNoWriMo has made “noveling” a verb and turned a solitary endeavor into a team sport. Regional groups form, write-ins are hosted, and writer’s block is quashed by committee. Participants claim real estate at coffee houses, libraries and bookstores to write collectively. “When you have such a big group, you can reach out to the community and have them push you,” says Renda Dodge, the Seattle liaison for NaNoWriMo.
Seattle has one of the most active regional groups—this year, more than 5,500 local writers are registered. We even have a mascot (the duck). At public venues, writers place a rubber duck next to their laptops to indicate they are participating in NaNoWriMo. There must be a booming rubber duck trade in Seattle these days, considering we won the competition’s "overall word count" and "donations" categories in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
This year, the stakes are higher: Seattle has challenged the Atlanta WriMos to see who can dominate in average individual word count. It’s the Ducks v. the Pandas, and they’re talking plenty of smack. “Hey Atlanta, you should go to some of the many amazing places in your city for novel inspiration. Places like your airport, or your Coca-Cola museum, or your…well, that’s it, really,” Seattle WriMo’s CowOfDeath posted. IcyBrian, an Atlanta WriMo, fired back: “I thought about going up to Seattle for a visit once, but instead I decided to not get swallowed up by a major corporation.” Okay, so it isn’t 8 Mile style, but it’s a start.
Go to nanowrimo.org to sign up or to follow the action, or visit the Seattle group’s Facebook page. There’s a halfway point party and all-day write-in at Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, on Saturday, Nov 13, from 10-6. Expect "prizes, contests, fellowship and fun."