Writing a Novel in a Month (and Other Fun Stuff)I didn’t finish my novel last November, but I’m going to try very hard to finish one this November. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, get thee to the National Novel Writing Month website, stat).

This despite the nagging reality that, at mid-afternoon on November 1st, I have almost no idea what I’m going to write about. I’m pretty sure I’m going to start with a bartender. In a bar. And there likely won’t be anything to do with leaf mold*. Anyway.

Last week I was on a Greyhound for a few hours, and staring out the window I found myself thinking about how I might manage to write 50,000 words in a month, work, attend two weddings, throw our annual massive U.S. Thanksgiving dinner, read and discuss our book-club book, and eat. Where by “eat” I mean nourish myself by ingesting foods that aren’t sitting in the giant plastic cauldron leftover from last night.

A familiar thought bubbled up through the hum of the engine and my sidelined wondering about how a cool draft was managing to seep through the heating vent below the window: I’ve felt this way before. I bite off more than I can chew all the time, but the times it ends up being a very good thing are the times I do it in public, online. And, more specifically, when I most certainly don’t do it alone.


There are two things I’m going to do all month, and in both cases I hope you’ll join in on the fun. Not only because I would very, very much appreciate your help, but also because I really do think it’ll be fun for all of us.

Thing the first: When I get stuck (and note that I don’t even have a plot yet, so), I will boil down that stickiness into one, concentrated question. I will ask this question of you. If it’s short enough or I’m desperate and don’t want to wait, I’ll ask it on Twitter. If it’s too long, I’ll pose it here on the blog. And at the end of the month, every person who’s chimed in with an answer via tweet or blog comment will get a shiny PDF of the novel I’ve written, whether I used their suggestion or not. (Note: The novel will almost certainly be crap. Participate at your own risk.)

Thing the second: Hugh over at Book Oven is doing a nifty thing with NaNoWriMo participants. He’s asking writers to upload their novels-in-progress to Book Oven so they can invite people to do bite-size edits as the novel progresses. (The nifty thing Book Oven does is allow members to perform edits on very small sections of text, so a writer doesn’t need to feel awkward about having lovely strangers read their whole project and a proofreader can get a lot done and not even realize it. Read more about Hugh’s Nano idea here.) Book Oven works in such a way that only members can perform bite-size edits and only people I’ve invited can work on my project. If you’d like to have a crack at my half-assed prose this month, leave a comment and I’ll invite you to the project. Everyone who performs bite-size edits will receive a shiny PDF of the (hopefully beautifully proofread by you and you and you) novel I’ll have written. (Note [again]: The novel will almost certainly be crap. But at least you’ll have gotten that impression yourself, one snippet at a time. Participate at your own risk.)

* Amy O’Neill Houck and I started sending each other random notes last week in an effort to spark some sort of inspiration in preparation for today. One such note she sent me was “leaf mold.” I spent a few days thinking about how mould on leaves could in some way tie in to an apocalypse of some sort (we know of my love of apocalyptic fiction, yes?), and then I looked it up and discovered that in fact leaf mold is something to do with composting. So what I’m sure of right now is that my novel will most certainly not be about leaf mold. On Book Oven, my project is called “Leaf Mold: This Novel Is Not About It“.

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