BEIRUT: “Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles,” are the opening words of the famous Odyssey by Homer, a 3,000 year-old adventure story of the ancient Trojan Wars – and thus it is revealed - that even after centuries, writers, particularly novel writers, are often still in search of a muse, or at least a light-bulb moment, before they put fingers to keyboard.
This creativity is being celebrated all throughout November as part of National Novel Writers Month, a challenge as it were, now in its 20th year, for writers around the world to deliver a finished 50,000-word manuscript in one month.
For the rest of the world, November is the time for Thanksgiving, early Christmas shopping, and drinking spiced pumpkin lattes. For the NaNoWriMo writers, however, it is the month in which they need to focus on delivering a brand-new novel by November 30th.
National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo) is an annual Internet-based creative writing project that comes to life during the month of November. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people mark their calendars on the first day of November and begin their countdowns to its last, at which point these aspirant writers will have hopefully brought out the novel inside them.
As noted, participants are expected to write a 50,000-word manuscript between during this one month period. To complete this deadline, they must write an average of approximately 1,667 words per day during this month. Organizers of the Internet-based event believe that the deadline boosts the writers’ urge to get their stories going and put words to paper, so to speak.
However, much like Ernest Hemingway’s understated maxim on the psychic toll of writing, that there is “nothing to writing but sitting down at a typewriter and bleeding,” many writers also find the procedure of producing their perfect novel an overwhelming emotional turmoil.
Therefore, NaNoWriMo has that aspect covered. Throughout the frantic writing process, acclaimed authors write "pep-talks" to keep participating writers motivated. Also, Hundreds of the startup’s volunteers organize communal writing sessions in thousands of partnering coffee shops, community centers, and libraries, to give NaNoWriMo participants a sense of communal belonging.
The website also provides participants, called "Wrimos,” with tips for writer’s block, information on where local participants are meeting, and an online support community.
NaNoWriMo writers are encouraged to finish their first draft quickly, emphasizing on the length of the work rather than the quality, which can be edited later on.
In July 1999, the project began with 21 participants. That number multiplied to over 200,000 people by the 2010 event, who wrote a total of over 2.8 billion words. According to its website, NaNoWriMo has almost 800,000 active novelists and almost 400,000 novels completed.
In order to participate, writers must first register on the NaNoWriMo website (no participation fee required), where they can post profiles and information about their novels. When writers submit a copy of their novel for automatic counting, word counts are validated.
Any participant who reaches the 50,000-word mark is considered a winner, and although no official prizes (except for an online certificate) are awarded for length, quality, or speed, the satisfaction of having written a novel in a month has proven worthy enough for hundreds of thousands of participants.
Many of the books that were incubated in NaNoWriMo’s caring womb ended up being published and recognized by the literary community, such as Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants,” and Hugh Howey’s “Wool.”
Riwa Roukoz, founder of Writers Beirut, a community for Lebanese writers, is one of the participants who has taken part in many previous NaNoWriMo editions. She learned about the challenge in 2013, when she was searching for online communities to join “to get a feel of the writing world before she ventured into a career centered around it.”
“NaNoWriMo is short, promising, and encouraging,” she told Annahar, adding that the best part of participating in it is ending up with a fully-written novel having gained the company of writers from around the globe.
For Roukoz, the challenge makes it appealing because a writer probably wouldn’t push himself/herself this much if they were to be writing in their comfort zone, at their own pace.
She also added that through Writers Beirut, she attempts to “organize writing sprints and marathons in cafes, just the way it’s organized in cities all over Europe and America.”
Another local supporter of NaNoWriMo is Tania Al Najjar, an English Literature instructor.
“I cannot stress on the importance of projects like NaNoWriMo for aspiring writers,” she told Annahar, adding, “There is so much literary talent out there, and safe platforms that encourage and challenge creative growth are needed to get those talents the proper recognition they deserve.”
We are back and ready for a month of challenge!
It's November! And you know that means? National Novel Writing Month! This global event is a challenge to write a novel of 50,000 words in a month. 1,667 words a day. We did it last year with our Writers Beirut community and we loved it!
The novel doesn't have to be perfect; it only pushes you to your limits. Success is trying, not finishing.
Besides writing from the safety of your houses, join us EVERY Tuesday and Wednesday of this month, from 7 to 9 pm at Blanca Café Bistro, to do some writing sprints together. You can catch up on your word count, make new writing buddies and just enjoy squeezing your creative juices in a safe and inspiring environment. #WritersBeirutXNaNoWriMo2019
The Procrastinators Circle is all we will be doing this month. Last month, this event series was launched to create a space for all you procrastinators. So even if you aren't doing the novel challenge for November, bring on all what's challenging you; papers, theses, poems... And come just write!
The events are free of charge. Writers are granted a 15% discount off on any order they make at the cafe, because we know you need your drinks and food. Message us to reserve your spot on any or all days! For any questions: writersbeirut.wordpress.com
Written with Christybelle Geha.
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