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October 31, 2006

Happy NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow, as my university's English department keeps informing me via e-mail. No, this is not the Japanese word for November. It's National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Although this English major's blood runs cold at the thought of valuing anything over painstaking craft in writing, I admit that enthusiasm and perseverance -- especially perseverance -- are also pretty essential to any writing process. And who knows, this might just turn out to be exactly what some of the frustrated novelists among us need. (Here's looking at you, Martha . . . :-) ) So if you've had that 50,000-word story lurking inside you for years, just needing a boost like this to get started, why not head on over and sign up?

But before you do, may I suggest you print out the following quotation and tape it to your computer, or anywhere else where you can keep one eye on it while hammering out your magnum opus:

You must not tell people what they want to hear, or even what they need to hear, unless it is the thing you passionately want to tell them. You must not look at them from above, or outside, and say: "Poor creatures; they would obviously be the better for so-and-so -- I must try and make up a dose for them." . . .

The false thing may -- I only say may -- assist a few souls here and now, but God knows how many it may help to damn at another time. Take shoddy, weak, sentimental religious art: there are pious souls who get comfort out of bad stained glass and sloppy hymns and music (though they might well get better nourishment out of honest stuff). But thousands of others have spewed at the sight and sound of it, and said "If Christianity fosters that kind of thing it must have a lie in its soul."

-- Dorothy L. Sayers, letter to C. S. Lewis, 31 July 1946

(I know I'm giving you a lot of Sayers lately. Expect even more, because right now I'm neck-deep in my graduate thesis on her. Besides, I think we've reached our monthly quota of Flannery O'Connor.)

So have fun, but do your best to make sure your writing is a piece of good writing, not just a piece of evangelism thinly disguised as fiction. Sorry I can't join in, but I've got to get this thesis done. Maybe next year . . .

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Gina, the Post's Sunday Source had a write-up on this on November 12.

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