13 November 2016

The Joy of Fifty Thousand Words

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it was founded by Chris Baty in 1999 (check out this link for full history of NaNo) The term "national" is a bit misleading, since the project is very much international with volunteers and participants from many different countries around the world. Each country is divided into different regions. My home region is called "Europe-Sweden-Elsewhere", where the "Elsewhere" stands for any region that is not Stockholm or Gothenburg.

Every region has its own Municipal Liaisons, and these are the volunteers who help run the show and make the whole NaNo experience easier and more fun for the rest of us. They are in charge of organising the so-called write-ins, where people from the same region gather to write and converse about... well, writing. Although, anybody can organise a write-in, provided there's enough interest and time. 

I did NaNo two times before. I never won, but I still had a blast both times. Either that, or I managed to repress all the painful memories associated with NaNo. To me, NaNo isn't so much about reaching your goal and winning (although that's a huge plus), as it is about being a part of a humongous worldwide project that crosses all sorts of social and cultural barriers. For instance, this year, my home region has been challenged to a Word War with the good people of Ottawa County and the Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now, where else would I get an opportunity to compete with someone who lives across the Atlantic Ocean? Certainly not in the Olympics or in the World Chess Championship. 

However, when time came to announce my novel this year, there was a pretty big "but" standing between myself and the final decision. You see, the goal in NaNo is to write 50 000 words (or more) in just thirty days. This means, you have to write at least 1 677 words each day. Now, how does one try and meet this ambitious goal while studying full time? Then again, how does one accomplish anything in life if not by making sacrifices and compromises? In this case, the sacrifice came in the form of reduced Netflix-time and the rest was simply a question of clever time management. Finally, just a week before November 1st, I announced my novel, and here I am. Writing. 

Writing a novel is a lonely job, and sometimes it's better to be alone with other people. That's why we writers sometimes gather in groups and write together. To an outsider this may look like the most antisocial party ever: a bunch random people, writing and/or typing in complete silence, only occasionally exchanging a few words with each other.

While in reality, it's all about people with very different backgrounds who find a common passion and participate in each other's creative process. That's pretty awesome. Like I said, anyone can organise a write-in, and this year I decided to be that "anyone" in my hometown, Malmö. We had two write-ins, both on the weekends, and they went exactly as you would imagine: we sat down and we wrote.

So far the biggest challenge for me has been finding a good coffee shop that has free wifi and an adequate number of electrical sockets. So, I can't complain. The most rewarding part of being in charge of such a gathering is actually seeing people gather and write together.

Not that writing itself isn't fun as well. But it's a different kind of fun. Writing is a lot like going into a haunted house: you know what you're getting into and you do it anyway. And once you're there, your mood changes between exhilarated to mortified every five seconds, while you wonder why you're there in the first place.

Even though November 30th is two weeks away and I still have exactly 28,160 word to write before I get my virtual trophy, I can say that so far I haven't regretted my decision. Who knows, perhaps next week I'll write a new post, where I curse myself for even thinking about taking on this kind of challenge and promise myself to never do anything this stupid again. We'll just have to wait and see. 

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