Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another monkey typing at the keyboard

Like hundreds of aspiring novelists before me, I, too, have signed up for NaNoWriMo. What, you might ask, is NaNoWriMo? According to their web site:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

If a thousand monkeys can produce a Shakespeare play by typing at keyboards for infinity, surely hundreds of humans typing 50,000 words in a month's time can produce one good novel. The problem is that each of us may only be able to come up with one of the pages (or sentences) from that great work. Much of the rest of it will surely be crap.

I type, on average, 700 words per page, so I figure that I'll need to write 3.5 pages a day to meet the 50,000-word goal. But judging from past experience, I'm probably going to be holed up in my room in a desperate writing frenzy on November 28th. The evidence? My 63-page undergraduate thesis on the Aeneid produced in a week (on a manual Remington typewriter, no less); likewise, my 50-page Master's thesis, typed over five days and nights in a computer lab. A month, then, seems like a luxury of time,  or at least it will the first three weeks.

Is it physically possible to type 45,000 words in a day?

The alternative is to be left behind on the 5,000-word slope, telling myself that it didn't really matter anyway, while others with more passion or persistence make their way to the 50,000-word summit.

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