Every year on November 1st, tens of thousands of intrepid writers and writer-wannabes gather over at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) to undertake the Herculean task of writing a 50,000-word novel in a mere 30 days. Impossible, you say? Nay, say I, and so says NaNoWriMo's founder and yearly participant, Chris Baty. Baty founded the site in 1999 with only 21 writers, convinced that the biggest stumbling block novelists face when sitting down to write a first draft is the absence of a deadline. Baty refers to the deadline as the single most important tool in writing, next to the implement with which the writer applies the words to paper. In his FAQ section, Baty writes:
"NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month."And they are. In fact, Baty lists eleven novelists who've published novels that were birthed as NaNoWriMo projects. There are no awards given (except an icon, a certificate and the satisfaction of a deadline met). It's art strictly for art's sake, says Baty. At the end of it all, a writer is guaranteed nothing but a good headstart (or, more optimistically, a completed first draft) of a novel.
But wait, I hear you say! We can't wait until November to begin our writing adventures. And besides, we laugh in the face of expositional narrative prose! This is Hollywood, baby, and in this town it's all about the screenplay. Well, fret not, my starsmooching little friends. For now, there is a sister site to NaNoWriMo called ScriptFrenzy.org. And if you hussle on over there right this minute, you'll be in time to sign up to write a 20,000-word screenplay in 30 days in the month of June. The same rules apply to the screenplays as to the novels (with the exception that screenplays may be written by a partnership of two writers, whereas novels must be singularly authored).
Writing is a solitary business, and one of its downfalls is that a writer can fall victim to the oppressors that live inside her own head. The benefit of spending 30 days, twice a year, locked in mortal combat with a literary endeavor, and being in that boat with thousands of other fellow combatants similarly engaged, is that you have back-up, support and many voices of sanity that will bring you out of your head and back on the path to getting the words out. As my mentor, Rob Roberge, has said, "A first draft's job is to get written." That's all. Just get written. Because every writer knows that writing is rewriting, and you can't rewrite what has yet to be written.
So, my little spectators, it's time to get those feet wet in a safe, supportive atmosphere where you don't have to show anyone your work if you don't want, but will find a receptive audience if you do.
Let's see what you guys can write. C'mon, baby. You know you want it.