Participant Abi Van Den Berg and friend.
Ever wanted to write a novel, but never quite found the impetus? NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), beginning on 1 November, encourages participants to hammer out 50,000 words in one month. Plenty of London venues are helping out.
Writing is allegedly a solitary occupation, conjuring up images of beleaguered authors locked in garret rooms, surviving on coffee and shunning the world to finish their great novels. It’s all about hardship and confinement and the pursuit of art. Worthy, but only for the very committed.
It might seem more sensible to be committed - into somewhere with padded walls - than to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this November. This global challenge started off in 1999 in San Francisco, when a gang of friends got together to support each other on to write, write, write for a month, all for fun. Just 50,000 words each, an acceptable length for a novel, or possibly a novella, in ‘thirty days and nights of literary abandon’. Since then the group has gone from strength to strength, from 21 people in the first year to over 100,000 last year and it’s become an international phenomenon.
The site has active forums where you can chat about how well - or badly - your novel is going, or get answers to your questions whether on ‘Orthodox prayers for the dead’ or ‘Hiking and muscle soreness’. Most cities host parties and meet-ups to help you get right to the end. This year there are write-ins all over London, venues range from coffee shops in the West End to pubs in east London and the British Library.
There’s also a large charitable element - the organisation is a non-profit funded primarily by donations from participants. Increasingly, people treat this writing marathon as a fund-raising opportunity. Abi Van Den Berg was encouraged by a group of writerly friends, based in London, Brighton, Norwich and Sydney, to sign up this year. She’s decided to raise money for Barnardo’s while typing her way to her word total - the literary equivalent of 26.2 miles.
It might only be London where stuffed toys feature so prominently - London Regional Moderator Lily has been bringing Thaddeus the Meercat to parties since 2006 so newbies can find their fellow writers - but the sense of shared insanity, whether it’s experienced in person or via the site, is what makes Nanowrimo crazy, incomparable and irresistible.
Nanowrimo starts at midnight on 1st November, for thirty days, sign up here. Weekend kick-off party at the Mad Hatter on Saturday 31st, from 2:00pm, full details of all London events can be found here.
By Gail Haslam