The novelists of November

It’s Nov. 2, and I haven’t started writing a novel yet. During four previous Novembers I’ve been bent over my keyboard by now, trying to get off to a good start for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal? A completed 50,000 word novel by the 30th.

What then? It depends. My NaNoWriMo novels are sitting in computer files, unlikely to ever make it to a bookshelf. What’s the point, naysayers ask?  As Carolyn Kellogg wrote in the LA Times Jacket Copy blog last year, there are worse ways to spend free time than writing a novel.

Completing a large writing project in a month is an exercise in discipline. It helps form an important habit, one Jane Yolen says is the secret to her productivity: “Butt In Chair.” NaNoWriMo is also good for creativity; there isn’t time to succumb to your inner editor.  And there’s a sense of camaraderie as thousands of people around the world work towards the same deadline.

These days, writing fiction could take your mind off famine, recession, war, and politics. Or in the Northeast, power outages and October snow. As I heard Professor Ralph Williams say at a post-film discussion in Concord two weekends ago, beauty (or in the case of NaNoWriMo, attempts at beauty) can help us deal with evil.

Need more motivation? Some November novelists take their manuscripts to the next level.  Writing for Chapter & Verse, a blog at the Christian Science Monitor, Husna Haq points out that two recent best-sellers, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, began as NaNoWriMo drafts.

Intrigued? You have most of November left to join NaNoWriMo. If you have no idea where to begin, check out Galley Cat’s excellent daily tips for NaNoWriMo. Today’s tip is one I endorse: visit the reference desk.