National Novel Writing Month is about two-thirds over, which means some 400,000 official participants – along with folks like myself who just wanted to test their mettle – are churning out copy toward the stated goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in November. I find participating in this process exhilarating. It really pushes me to write, and as a journalist, I’ve always thrived on deadlines. And I get a sense of fellowship with my fellow writers, who are airing their struggles and words of encouragement online in venues such as Twitter.
If you want to look at all these writers as competition – especially with companies jumping up to sell you publishing services at every turn – you wouldn’t be wrong, either. With up to a million books being published in the United States alone each year, the chances of your voice being heard in the wilderness dwindle all the time. But at least we live in an era when we can press the button and put a book out there without being totally at the mercy of the great publishing machine.
The bad thing is that anyone can press the button. More opportunity means fewer filters. The signal-to-noise ratio suffers. There’s always a trade-off. But as more self-publishers publish at a professional level, with good editing and book covers, readers start to get some real choice. Of course, readers are paying less and less for books, and therefore authors who are trying to compete on price need to sell a ton of books to make anything off all their hard work. And so the struggle continues.
Struggle or not, I don’t think anyone gets into National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to make money. It’s not easy to write that many words, as a rule. They’re doing it for the challenge and for the love of the written word.
This time, I’m doing it as an experiment, writing in a genre that’s new to me. Maybe it’s because of my casual approach, but I’ve found this romance manuscript to flow more easily than almost anything else I’ve written, and I’ve already surpassed my 50,000 words. I’m aiming for 70,000 and a complete novel by month’s end. I’ll probably publish this book myself, under a pen name, and because I’ve self-published before, I know a lot of work is still ahead of me. But it’s fun to be in there slugging with all the other NaNoWriMo writers this month, fighting the good fight. No matter how crazy the business has become, it’s still about the words on the page.
Ask not for whom the typewriter dings. It dings for thee.