For those of you who don't know about such craziness, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which just happens to be November. Every year, thousands of writers complete the challenge of completing a novel in a month's time.
For NaNo's purposes, a novel is 50,000 words. They don't have to be good words, or parts of good sentences; any set of 50,000 words will do.
This year, I am gaming the system a bit. Instead of writing a novel, I am finishing one and beginning another.
The novel I'm finishing (or, to be more precise, FINISHED yesterday!!!) is Swan Song, a big concept YA that I've been working on, intermittently and fitfully, for the better part of a decade. The novel begins with some questions: What if Beowulf is not really about some 5th century Germanic warlord? What if it's really a much older story, a true story, that was adapted for each new generation of listeners? Who, then, would Grendle the monster be? Swan Song conjectures on those questions in two intertwined stories: one set in a present day high school and another set 29 thousand years ago. Both are stories of exclusion and prejudice and parallel each other.
Now that I'm finished with Swan Song, I'll begin working on Summer of the Bombers, a contemporary midgrade novel set in New Mexico. The bombers in question are the ones the Forest Service use to fight wildfires here in the parched Southwest, and the story is about what happens to a family when a fire disrupts its life and destroys its home.
Even with two different stories to work on, piling up 50,000 words can be a pretty daunting task. What happens if the muse doesn't move me along - if I run out of words before I run out of month? If that happens, I guess my main character will start spouting my grocery lists and middle school social studies lesson plans. She'll recite my Facebook posts and, if I'm really desperate, my Twitter posts. She might even be credited with the words from my blog. After all, there are 393 perfectly good words here, and I might need NaNo credit for each and every one of them.