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Why Grow A Mo When You Can Grow A Book?

Most folks in the western world are surely aware of the upcoming Movember, an event intended to raise awareness of and money for the cause of battling depression in men. It's a simple event: starting with a cleanly shaven phiz on November 1st, participants must avoid shaving until November 30th, ideally chronicling the progress of their hairy horticulture and tonsorial topiary in photographs as they go and getting people to sponsor them.

I'm not stranger to it; a couple of years ago I joined a team at work and grew a very mangy shrub above my upper lip before a very, very grateful shaving on December 1st. I felt as though I had a scab on my upper lip throughout, one I couldn't resist picking at. After that horrid, horrid month, I quoth-ed the Raven: “Nevermore!”

However – Well, not really however, but... This year, another charity event has caught my attention, and I reckon it's right up my alley.

I can't remember where or when I first heard of the odd acronym, NaNoWriMo. A few years ago, I think; folks on the RPG.net Forums may have mentioned it once or twice. Lately, though, Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing has mentioned it a lot, and Talitha at Tropical Writers asked whether I was going to be in.

At first I figured I'd probably give it a miss. Unlike the semi-passive task of growing a moustache, NaNoWriMo - otherwise known as the National Novel Writing Month - requires its participants to write the first draft of a 50,000-word novel. That means writing one thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven (rounding up) words per day. Now, if I'm lucky, I can crank out 500 words in my midday break at work once I've eaten, which is thirty to forty minutes. At that kind of speed, I'd need to dedicate around two hours, twenty minutes every day to writing. That's a pretty big ask.

However, as October draws to a close, I find myself... well, keen. Two posts ago, I talked about how I want to get serious about writing fiction; I want to get into the habit of cranking out 1,000 words a day, and blitzing through 167% of that in a month would be a good way to get into that habit.

I have additional incentive. Scrivener is a Mac application that I've been hearing good things about lately; a lot of creative-types recommend it as a great aid to writing. Were MacBooks as affordable as the Acer netbook I bought a couple of months ago, I'd have bought Scrivener and installed it in a heartbeat.

However, Scrivener developers Literature and Latte have just released a beta version of Scrivener for Windows, due to be released in 2011. They're offering NaNoWriMo participants a deal: Complete your 50,000 words by November 30th and they'll sell you Scrivener for Windows at 50% off when they release it..

So, I've signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and downloaded the beta on my desktop and my netboook. The next question is: What the hell am I going to write 50,000 words about?

Okay, okay, those of you who were going to say “Slamdance” can put your hands down. Much as you must start Movember cleanly shaven, you must start NaNoWriMo with nothing but a clean sheet of paper and possibly an outline. I already have four first draft chapters of Slamdance done, plus some early work on the fifth, and I'm not about to get ahead of myself and write the sequel to a book I haven't even finished yet.

But if not everyone's favourite big red cyborg, then what? Well, it has to be something I'd enjoy writing, like action and adventure with big and / or cool machines lots of high tech toys to play with.

Then it hit me: The War of the Worlds. It's got everything: Blood-sucking alien overlords, towering war machines and searing death rays. I've wanted to build my own castles in Wells' sandpit ever since Jeff Wayne's Musical Version hipped me to the book, and I'm gonna have me some fun with it now. It's going to be an alternate present where we've integrated the technology the Martians left behind after the last invasion, but the Martians return with some new tricks of their own.

Between now and November 1st I'm going to put an outline together; I know how I want it to end, so I can work backward from there, see what situations I need to have happen to get to the end and what sort of people would be in those situations. If you're keen on following my progress, keep an eye on my Twitter feed and NaNoWriMo profile.

You can also sponsor me. Proceeds raised by NaNoWriMo go to offset the costs of running it and the organisation's charity, the Young Writers Program, bringing arts education to schoolkids in month-long programmes. It's US-based, so if you're not in the States but you'd still like to donate something, chuck some cash toward the charity Vickie and I support, Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.

Wish me luck!

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