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The NaNoWriMo chronicles: A local writer’s journey to 50,000 words

By Mike Reynolds on November 1, 2012


Editor’s Note: Mike Reynolds is a local author who is taking part in the NaNoWriMo challenge running throughout the month of November. As a multi-year veteran of this grueling test of literary mettle, he’s been kind enough to chronicle his experiences for us. Be sure to check in at the end of the month to see how he fares. And if you’re participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo, be sure to tell us all about it in the comments.

Anyone who has sat in front of a typewriter can attest to how difficult it is to have to write to a minimum word count. Anyone who has ever sat in front of a typewriter should also consider themselves lucky, because we’ve been sitting in front of computers for too long and computers have a wicked (the mean meaning of the word) function called WORD COUNT that typewriters don’t have.

Most people can relate to putting together 2,000 or maybe even upwards of 5,000 words in one relatively cohesive document. We can relate to this because we’ve gone through English classes in high school where writing a five paragraph essay seemed more important than learning to spell correctly or to do grammar good. But imagine writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days straight. Not as many people can relate to that.

Multiplying one of those numbers by the other gets you roughly 50,000 words. And 50,000 words in 30 days would make you a successful participant in the yearly National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s called by people who don’t have time to pronounce the full title because they’re busy writing a 50,000 word novel.

The concept of NaNoWriMo is simple: write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. You don’t start off with a partial story and finish it off during the month. Instead, you start fresh at word one and keep going until your fingers bleed too much, or until you’ve reached the 50,000 word mark. To give you an idea of how hard this is, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of my favourite writers, would have failed to medal in NaNoWriMo had he submitted his great piece Slaughterhouse-Five. It comes in at a measly 49,459 words.

I started my first NaNoWriMo story with a sentence along these lines: “Bill woke up with his head resting softly on a mossy oak tree log and his donkey resting softly in a patch of mud beside the mossy log.”

When I managed to take a story that centered around a man and his donkey on a 50,000 word journey, I realized there was no subject matter that could prevent me from completing my NaNoWriMo task. I’ve since completed two novels that focus on the adventures of Santa Claus and one that recounts, with some hints of make-believe, some question and answer sessions between myself and my eldest daughter.

Now that I’ve mentioned my eldest daughter, who has since been joined by a newer, younger version of rambunction, I must touch upon the greatest roadblock I’ll face in typing a 50,000 word novel. As of yet, neither one of my girls have responded to my pleas to sleep soundly through the night so that daddy can write about a species of creature that live in a beard (which just so happens to be the direction I believe I’m headed in this year).

So this year, the first with two little munchkins running around the house, will be the toughest test yet. In a 30 day stretch there are bound to be days where I feel I could write 4,000 words and others where writing four will be tough. Luck will be on my side if the 4,000 word days are met with visions of sugarplums dancing in the heads of my children and the days where I struggle to do anything are the ones I’m cleaning pee from the bathroom floor.

My brain is already buzzing with ideas on how to expand from this: “A man woke up with his head resting on a strand of beard and beside him, his donkey dipped his head in a pool of excess beard oil.”

Happy writing…