Monday, November 1, 2010


Not only do I want to change the name from “Novel Writing” to “Novel Drafting,” I also want to change it from one month to two.
National Novel Drafting Two Months!
NaNoWriMo creator Chris Baty says he picked November as National Novel Writing Month because “it’s a bad weather month.” Really? What about the long, dark nights of February or March? Why not schedule NaNoWriMo in say, May or June, when lots of people start Summer Projects? Or what about September! It’s time for school and shiny pencils and new notebooks. You’ve got back-to-school energy, even if you’re not in school. November? My internal batteries are fading. Why November? It’s a busy month. Final projects. Deadlines. End-of-year reports. Plus the holidays. Commitments to family and friends. How does anyone expect you to do anything this big during November?
But that’s the beauty of it, see. Because who doesn’t have a ton of shit to do all the time? As I tell my students: You’ll probably never have time to “just write,” so ask yourself how you’re going to organize your life so you can get writing done. How are you going to incorporate it into your already scheduled life? What’s on your plate? What can you remove from that plate? And what can be shifted around to make room for writing? Now, nobody’s asking you to quit your job or break up with your girlfriend or flunk a class or stop tucking your kids in at night. What about television? Gaming? Facebooking? Yammering? Putzing? Hard-core partying? Recovering from hard-core partying? Shopping on Etsy or Ebay? I don’t know…whatever else it is that you do that I can’t think of because I’m old and boring.
Still, I was worried. Maybe it’s not possible or reasonable to ask the average college student to draft a novel during November. Maybe it contributes to their well-ingrained “binge” mentality. They deny themselves all week, and then binge drink on the weekends. They don’t write anything for months, and then binge write for 30 days. Is this healthy? Then my husband said, “I don’t know how they can stand the suspense. Why don’t you just let them start?” 

So I decided to offer the class a choice: They could participate in NaNo just as Chris Baty intended, or they could modify the experiment and start writing on October 1. Instead of writing 1667 words a day for 30 days of November (NaNoWriMo), they could write 980 words a day for the 51 days of October and November (NaNoDra2Mo). 
[Wow, do I suck at math. Wow. Make that 819 words a day for 61 days. Because 31 + 30 = 61. Yes.]
At the end of September, I gave my students an in-class timed writing exercise: write a profile of your main character. They wrote for about 30 minutes. Then I had them shout out their word count. Some typed swiftly—no editing or tweaking—and pounded out over 1000 words. Others wrote more slowly and laboriously, only producing about 300 words.
I said, “Okay, some of you wrote quickly and some of you didn’t. There’s no right way to write. But what does this exercise tell you about how much time you need to write 819 words? To write 1667 words? For those of you who wrote quickly, you could do what you just did—spend just a half hour at the keyboard every day for two months—and you’re done. You could go on with the rest of your day. You'll hardly notice the difference--other than the great feeling that comes with writing a little bit every single day. For those of you who wrote slowly, how much more time do you need to write 819 words? To write 1667? And ask yourself if you can realistically create that much time in your day? Maybe you need to use both October and November to accomplish this task. Or maybe you need to stop being so hard on yourself and just write like hell. Don’t edit or spell check. Get out of your own way and just go.”
So: half the class started on October 1st, and they are all about half way to the goal of 50,000. The other half of the class decided to wait and start on November 1st.
I’ll keep you updated on their progress.


  1. I love this experiment -- in part because there are no wrong answers, and in part because there are infinite ways to reattempt/redefine. So much writing is ahead.

  2. This is such an exciting idea! I can't wait to hear how it turned out. Are they bringing in their work each day, or do you just have to trust that they're doing it?