The time is at hand, once again, where thousands of people from all over the world gather together, working separately, to complete a feat not often undertaken by the faint of heart. That feat is called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Those of us crazy enough to undertake this unique challenge pledge to do our level best to write 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel in November. 30 days. 50,000 words. It sounds like a lot. And it is! But for those of us who love the written word, we are happy to give it a try, and to write the worst strings of words we may ever see hit the “page.”
The thing with NaNo, which is the shortened version of what we call our challenge, is to get a writer to write every day. It is also to shut off the “internal editor,” who will always be the doubter. The one to say our writing will never be good enough. The one who, really, stops us from writing junk that we can later turn into gold.
You cannot write gold before you write junk. You just can’t. We all get that, but we all doubt ourselves as we stare at a blank Word document, or as we open to the first page of a “really cool” notebook we bought specifically because we have an idea we want to get down on paper. But, largely, that idea never gets written. We never feel “good enough.” We never feel that we are “important enough” that anyone will want to read our work.
Here’s the great thing about fiction, though: We do not have to be “good enough” or “interesting enough” or “important enough.” We need to leave that to our characters. Let them be important or interesting or “good enough!” That is their job.
Okay, part of our job is to craft those characters. But that is not going to happen in a character sketch. That is not going to happen in the first character interview we conduct with our protagonist (that’s the good guy). It will also be hard for us to want to get to know our antagonist (the bad guy) enough to write about him or her. But we need to get to know them, so we know why people may actually feel sorry for them. We need to know why and when, long before our story started, readers should care about them.
The good news? We get to keep writing about our characters until they prove themselves worthy of our time. They need to prove themselves to us. As authors, we are in the background. Sure. We need to tell the story, but it up to our characters to shoulder the big weight. They need to make people care about them and what they go through in our novel, right?
I hope this idea might get just one more person to get involved in NaNo this year. Or to support a writer who undertakes the challenge. I know this is an aside from where I normally go with my blog, but it’s also something about which I am passionate. I believe everyone has a story. I also believe all of those stories deserve to be told! If you would like to get involved, check it out on the National Novel Writing Month website: nanowrimo.org