Kerry has been writing radio copy for donkey's years, & also dabbles in short stories & travel writing. She works, plays and explores largely in the CDB and inner suburbs, gets everywhere by public transport and is the self-professed Zone One Queen.
Join thousands of others in writing a novel this November
If you keep your eyes sharpened this November, you might notice a few more people than usual tapping away at laptops, in writing points and wifi sites around the city. Are they a) studious types preparing for exams, or b) writing a novel?
B is the answer I'm angling for here. Many of us who dabble in writing would like to write a novel—aren't we all supposed to have one in us? But we are hampered by writer's block, busy lives, lack of time and/or motivation, and our frustrating internal editor who loves to find excuses for giving up.
Welcome to NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. Having originated as 'national' in the US, it is truly an international event now with gazillions of wordsmiths taking part, including a healthy-sized group here in Melbourne.
The purpose of NaNoWriMo, which you can learn more about here, is to write a 50,000 word novel during November. 'Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon' is their motto. The aim is output, with the motivational boost of knowing many others are along for the ride. On NaNoWriMo, you write every day – at least 1,666 words a day (that's around three pages) to break even. You splurge raw material onto the page, and you don't look back. No re-reading, no editing – there's plenty of time for that December onwards. And you are not competing with others, or for a prize. The reward is in the completion, a wonderful sense of achievement , and the first rough draft of your novel which you can then edit at your leisure.
Along with the guidelines, the NaNoWriMo website is full of encouraging motivation, inspiration, and forums where you can be in touch with your local group, or with the NaNo world at large. The Melbourne forum has over 4,300 members (that's a few hundred more than Sydney, by the way) and an enthusiastic liaison person / team event organiser. During November, write-ins are organised: venues and times when participants can come together to write in company. A 'word war' competition for daily word counts takes place, snacks are consumed, and if you're feeling uninspired, there are fellow wordsmiths to cheer you on.
Or it may be more your thing to write alone, at home or in a writer-friendly venue. My two favourite writing venues are poles apart yet close in proximity, each offering different value. The State Library allows you to steep yourself in the task at hand, with its generally quiet vibe, studious companions and numerous power-socketed desks. Be aware—by weekend afternoons, there can be almost no spare seats in the house. Get there early, or try the library's La Trobe Reading Room, an inspiring space although the older-style desks aren't the most ergonomical for writing. Your local libraries are also an option, though I notice that study space is more limited.
The other is 1000 Pound Bend, where this very article is being crafted. A groovy vibe with good music, old furniture and eclectic décor, I love to write here because I can enjoy yummy food, coffee or an alcoholic beverage while I write. There aren't many cafes or bars where you can feel comfortable settling in with a laptop and staying for hours. 1000 Pound Bend welcomes computer users, with strong free WiFi, and socket points scattered around the joint.
This author's writing desk at 1000 Pound Bend, on a busy Tuesday evening (weekend days are quieter)
Therefore, is it time you finally had a go at writing that novel? Register now at NaNoWriMo, read the tips on how to get prepared during October, and how to beat writer's block once you are underway. And if you are reading this during November and it's too late to start, well—now you know, for next year. Keep in touch with the site anyway for events such as Camp NaNoWriMo, which instigates write-a-novel months at other times of the year.
NaNoWriMo will be tough at times, and you might feel your output is completely unreadable, but with many writing companions along for the ride, it's loads of fun. Take it from me (having earned my NaNoWriMo badge in 2010).
Good luck, and may your 50,000 words flow from your finger tips.