A few years ago, I started a little sports blog at Foxsports.com, mostly as a way to combine my dual passions for writing and sports than out of any real notion that anybody might be interested in what I had to say.
It took a while, but eventually I built up a fairly decent following, not to mention discovering a number of very talented writers whose work I enjoyed reading. In October, 2006, one of those writers made an offhand comment on one of my blogs about something called "NaNoWriMo," telling me she was going to participate for the second year in a row and inviting me to join in as well.
I was pretty sure "NaNoWriMo" had nothing to do with sports, since I had never heard of it, but I had no earthly idea what it was. Honestly, it sounded vaguely menacing, in a science-fiction, aliens-taking-over-the-world sort of way.
When I asked this blogger what the hell she was talking about, she explained that "NaNoWriMo" was short for "National Novel Writing Month," where participants commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Just November. Seriously.
The concept sounded just crazy enough to be appealing and although I now knew it didn't involve aliens taking over the earth (Unless that's what I chose to write a novel about), it was damned scary in it's own way. Naturally, I decided to try.
I had been itching to try writing a book for a while - blogging about sports was a blast but writing fiction has really been what I wanted to do since I was a little kid. I was hooked when I discovered the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes.
So on November 1, 2006 I began writing a tale about a professional assassin who really wants out of the life but isn't quite able to escape it. His downfall is that he's simply a sucker for anyone who has been wronged and requires his special talents in order to right that wrong.
To my utter amazement, by November 30 I had written the required 50,000 words, and was thus a winner in my first-ever NaNoWriMo attempt! The story wasn't finished, however, so I kept going, and by the time I wrote "The End", I was the proud owner of the first draft for a 95,000 word novel titled The Fixer.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since. I won again in 2007 with what ended up being an 89,000 word horror novel titled Paskagankee, and in 2008 I completed an 88,000 word thriller titled Final Vector. I didn't win last year because I had already started the novel, and when I finished writing it in mid-November, I had nothing left to write.
I won't make that mistake again, though. This year I am planning a thriller about a regular guy who happens onto the attempted kidnapping of a teenage girl. He breaks up the crime and saves the girl, but in doing so, puts his own family squarely in the sights of the unhinged criminal.
If you're a writer, and maybe even if you're a reader, you have probably by now heard of National Novel Writing Month. If not, think of it as the Olympics for writer-nerds. As they freely admit on the NaNoWriMo website, "The ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."
When I completed my three previous novels, two of which I started during NaNoWriMo and the third of which I finished during it, all I had were very rough first drafts. All of them required extensive editing and rewriting before they ever reached the point where I would be comfortable having anyone else look at them.
But they all eventually reached that point and while I remain unpublished - at least as far as novels are concerned - I have received constructive criticism as well as encouragement from agents and independent publishers and remain convinced it is only a matter of time before I join the ranks of professional novelists.
If you're a writer and you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2009, feel free to add me as a writing buddy. If you're not a writer but have a morbid curiosity as to why anyone in their right mind would attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days, you are welcome to use this link and follow my progress.
I fully expect to pop up from under my rock and post the occasional blog, but just in case our paths don't cross for the next month, enjoy November! I'll have my nose to the grindstone, or at least my fingers on the keyboard, composing fiction and wreaking havoc on the poor people who populate my new novel . . . I can't wait!