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NaNoWriMo, age, and time

As National Novel Writing Month participants everywhere know, NaNoWriMo begins less than a week from today–five days from the time this will be read by anyone besides myself. Some will argue four, but that’s just a different way of counting, sort of like the story of the mathematician who began counting with zero instead of one.

Besides celebrating the recent discovery of a plot for this crazy noveling challenge, I’ve been taking in the community and noticing how the dynamic has changed yet stayed the same since I joined in 2002. Obviously, there are a lot more people now than there were years ago. When I was new, I was one of the younger people on the forums. In fact, I remember bemoaning all my high school activities and wondering if anyone would know what I was talking about. (A few people did, actually, but of course, most people were adults.) Now there are more young people coming in, and suddenly I feel old. I shouldn’t feel old in the 20s forum when there’s a teens forum right above me (something that didn’t exist when I was new)! That’s just not allowed. Seeing all these young NaNoers–especially college freshmen–complain about how hard NaNo and school will be prompts me to reply and give myself as an example. You will survive. You will thrive. You will finish. We’ll ignore the fact that I finished NaNo with five and a half hours to go on my first year and wrote half the novel in five days.

From experience, I had a lot more spare time in college than I did in high school. High school really is a job just from the time it takes out of your day. Sure, college is as well from the studying and paper-writing and problem sets (and trust me, I had both–that’s the price I paid for being well-rounded), but you can be much more flexible with your time. Besides, one day these young NaNoers will be old NaNoers like me and wonder why the young NaNoers of the future are complaining about their oh-so-busy schedules. It’s the circle of NaNo. It’s beautiful.

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A plot? Not quite.

Unless an amazing idea befalls me between now and November first, I will be writing a novel based entirely on dares from the NaNoWriMo forums.

What’s a dare, you ask? Remember playing Truth or Dare at a slumber party, and if you were at the slumber parties I was at, no one wanted to do truth or dare because revealing the guy you liked was too painful for a ten-year-old, and the dares were absolutely ridiculous. Tame, but ridiculous all the same. We listened in on the guys once, though. One of their truths was whether they had urinated on an electric fence. That’s an easy answer, I’d hope.

Dares work the same for NaNoWriMo. You’re dared to put ridiculous things in your novel. Since no one’s going to read your novel without your permasimmons, you’re making a fool of yourself only in front of you. If you can’t bear that, then what can you bear during NaNo? NaNoWriMo embraces the exuberant tomfoolery.

I once heard that a good author can make a good story out a bad idea. If I continue with this idea, we’re going to see if that’s true. Who knows. There may even be excerpts.

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NaNoWriMo is two weeks away, and I am still plotless.

We’re creeping up on two weeks until National Novel Writing Month, and as usual, I am currently plotless. So far suggested ideas and points for my novel include:

* unicorns and handcuffs (courtesy of this LiveJournal thread)
* a trebuchet, courtesy of the Trebuchet club on the NaNoWriMo forums
* Mr. Ian Woon, a character whose name is an anagram of NaNoWriMo
* bananas in Iceland, courtesy of syaffolee

I could also write a young adult novel for the possibility of entering the young adult novel pitch competition. However, as Lime of Caffeinated Creativity pointed out, it wouldn’t be NaNo if I did have a fully developed idea this early. She’s right, by the way. I’m the type to wing it and still finish.

Besides, if I still don’t have an idea come the first, there’s always the idea to write a novel entirely based on dares from the forums. Or about Mr. Ian Woon, a unicorn trainer in Iceland who builds a trebuchet to fling bananas. He uses handcuffs to keep them in line.

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Why don't people read anymore?

National Novel Writing Month user Uninvoked began a thread on the forums pondering if people read anymore. Given my recent book review (and another one pending the finishing of my current book), I’m wondering the same thing. I read anything I can get my hands on and occasionally some things I can’t. My letters to my grandparents as a young child concerned things I read in the encyclopedia. At one point in middle school, I was devouring a book a day to the point that the teacher who let me borrow them started to doubt that I was really reading them until I told her about them. (This was before the plot of every book under the sun could be found online.)

Granted, I read less than a book a day, and probably less than a book a week given my other activities. However, the number of people around me who are astonished to see a book in someone’s hand still shocks me. I could get a shiny halo next to my NaNoWriMo username if I had a dollar for each person on my commute who gave me a strange look for the book in my hand. (I could get even more goodies if we extended this analogy to a notebook. Heck, I could probably fund NaNoWriMo’s expenses this year if I had a dollar for everyone who has ever given me a strange look for having a novel or notebook in hand.) So what do people have against books?

School is the first place that some kids see books. If there aren’t a lot of books at home, they may make the connection that school equals books. Unfortunately, if they don’t like school, they may also grow to dislike books, regardless of how interesting any other book out there really is.

Along with school comes peer pressure. Unfortunately, a kid who enjoys books out of her own will is often viewed as an outsider. It certainly got me pegged as an outcast as a kid. Naturally, the other kids will apply pressure to the bibliophile. Few kids want to be the outcast, so some will cave and try to be like everyone else.

And let’s not forget environment. A kid who grows up around book lovers is likely to become a book lover herself. There are certainly exceptions. I’m one of them.

Whatever the reason, always remember: It’s not the size of your book collection but how you use it.