Online and Print Converge as NaNoWriMo Winners Triumphantly Cross the Finish Line
Today, November 30th, is a big day in the book world. Or at least in the wannabe-novelist world.
It’s also a big day for anyone interested in the convergence of print and digital and the remarkable things that can come of it.
And that is because today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing month, where aspiring novelists from all over the world set out to write a complete novel, soup to nuts, in thirty days.
Five of these aspiring novelists live in my house. Of my five family members, we have, well, five novels entering their final stages of completion today. Our youngest member is 14—and this is her second year participating. If they (we) can make their (our) 50,000 word goal by midnight, we’re winners.
This is a very cool thing and what makes it work is, you guessed it, digital publishing—the convergence of online and print in fresh ways that would have been unimaginable not so long ago. NaNoWriMo has a website where you can update your word count and check the graph that tracks your progress; it’s got pep talks (today I’m reading one from Nick Hornby) and videos and forums where you can brag or bemoan your lack of progress or ask for ideas; there is a procrastination station; and there are various writing challenges or exercises (“have your hero solve a problem having to do with a bandanna, a chimp, and a piece of bubblegum in the next chapter”).
And there’s integration with the real world. Throughout the country if you’ve walked into bookstores or cafes this month you might have seen an unusual number of earnest writers typing away in groups—groups, in many cases, formed of people who met on the site. Or the groups might meet virtually—my kids and I participated in a “Night of Writing Dangerously” here in New Hampshire where we did series of 20-minute writing sprints throughout the evening and, for some, the night.
What will come out of it all? As of this minute the collective word count of all participants is 3,154,506,390. A lot of them, no doubt, are crap. Probably a lot of publishers and agents are deluged, in December, by books that were, let’s face it, written in 30 days.
But real books, published with ink and paper and on sale in bookstores and printed in ink on bestseller lists throughout the country, also do come out of all this online amazingness. It’s a fun thing to watch and to participate in, and a testament to what can be done if you’ve got a can-do website, a compelling premise, lots of user-generated content, and a vision.