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November Novel Writing

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November is National Novel Writing Month! Affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, writers are encouraged to sign up and track their progress, effectively joining a social network of other writers.The NaNoWriMo organization describes the program as: “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.”

For most of us, our lives are a bit too busy to take on the daunting (though possibly exhilarating) task of writing a novel in a mere month, or several months, or even years. So rather than sitting huddled in a dark room, curtains pulled shut to avoid any sliver of light that might pierce your computer-screen-burned retinas, and hardly eating due to weighty feelings of being an abject disappointment and failure… I invite you to take on a more manageable goal, should you wish to pursue a writing endeavor at all. Instead of National Novel Writing Month, why not challenge yourself to National Short Story Writing Month? (To be fair, National Short Story Month is apparently in May, but who says you can’t repeat a good thing?)
Five books on the craft of writing, should you need a muse or two:

On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

On Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

While some writers scoff at the notion of short stories, I’d argue that short stories can be just as memorable and powerful as a full length novel when done well. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “masters of the short story” whispered in the same sentence as names like John Cheever, James Joyce, Alice Munro, William Trevor, and Raymond Carver. Set them aside for this month. Read them, by all means, but don’t attempt to be the next Flannery O’Connor. Try to put some of your genuine self into a story, and write your way to something new, strange, and perhaps worth keeping.

~Ali

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