Writers' block party

November 04, 2003

NO TIME to dawdle, you're late.

National Novel Writing Month started on Saturday, a monthlong word-spewing fest led by some merry pranksters on the West Coast. Participants have until midnight Nov. 30 to write their own 50,000-word novel, an average of 1,667 words a day - or 2,000 if you start, say, Wednesday and skip Thanksgiving. Everyone who gets it done is crowned an Award-Winning Novelist, with the attendant bragging rights at parties.

This is for all you "one day" novelists (as in, "One day, I'll write a novel"). The beauty is the deadline. First, it makes the goal concrete - the work must be done by month's end. Second, it is so obviously brief that the pressure is off to write perfect, jewel-like sentences and sinewy prose. You just have to keep the words coming, realizing that 50,000 words isn't Harry Potter size, more like Ethan Frome - or one of those skinny romance novels.

Already, of the 22,000 novelists signed up on the NaNoWriMo.org site, there are at least 72 hardy Baltimoreans. We're a city of storytellers - why not a city of writers, too?

Join online, and fire up the computer or pull out the spiral notebook. Watch movies for inspiration, listen to music. Try out the new digs at the Enoch Pratt Free Library to surround yourself with "writer spirit." Talk a friend into joining for support and friendly word-count competition. Go together to the snack shop and spend 15 minutes talking out loud about your work-in-progress. Feel arsty and cool.

Find yourself falling into a mild Zen state called "I can put this in my novel." Use it while dealing with traffic, eating lunch next to a table of loud giggling teens, withstanding a lecture from the boss, forgetting someone's birthday. Why get upset? Just take notes - it's fodder.

No more pondering, wondering whether to start, how to begin, if it's even possible. WriMos know it is, and they're out of the gate: Just say go.

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