*darth vader voice* it begins
NaNoWriMo is upon us once again
warning: flashing gif at the end
*inhales deeply* Smell that? No, not that. That. The pine-fresh scent of hundreds of thousands of writers dusting off their keyboards in preparation for the greatest fall event of them all: National Novel Writing Month. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is just that: a month where people around the world decide that writing fifty thousand words in thirty days is a thing they want to do. Once upon a time, I was one of those loons, and “won” NaNoWriMo with a 50,001 word fantasy novel that I promise you will never see the light of day. (I’ve written about NaNoWriMo before, in the early days of this newsletter.)
Why participate in NaNoWriMo? There are as many reasons to do it as not. It’s a great way to join a community of writers: there is a NaNo group in almost every city or state, and the forums are very active during the month itself. It’s a good way to build a writing practice, because to win you have to write consistently (about 1667 words a day.) For people who like concrete challenges, the time limit—thirty days, encompassing a major American holiday to boot—is a clean metric for success.
I’ve said before that you don’t have to do NaNo to be a writer—you don’t have to write every day, you don’t have to have a set word count goal, you don’t really have to do anything. But NaNo is a fun thing to try, I think. And all throughout the month of November, this newsletter will be focusing on content aimed to help you win NaNo with whatever project you work on. I’ve teamed up with my editing bestie Rebecca Faith Heyman to put together resources that will be exclusive to our newsletter subscribers. The first handout is our top five tips for plotting your novel, and can be accessed here.
Week 1: Plot
Week 2: Character
Week 3: The Dreaded Middle
Week 4: Next Steps
The year I won NaNo, which was, I think, 2013, I had success for two reasons: one, I knew what idea I wanted to write before I sat down to write it, and two, I protected my writing time and made it a routine. But plenty of people have won NaNo by writing on the weekends and diving in to something without knowing what they were writing in advance. Success in NaNo looks the same as success in writing in general: the best thing to do is the best thing that works for you.
So, are you going to try NaNoWriMo this year? Please let me know in the comments! If you are, you have two and a half days to get ready. Clean your desk, sharpen your pencils, decide what hours are going to be your writing hours and block them off in your calendar. Take some time to read through some of the great Pep Talks provided by cool authors on the NaNoWriMo page. And above all, have fun with it! Even if no one ever reads the words you produce during November 2021, the act of writing them is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Next Monday, Becca and I will be doing an Instagram Live at 11am to do a NaNoWriMo Q&A! Make sure you’re following my account as I will be the host of this one. If you have a question for us, leave it in the comments or as a reply to the newsletter!
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
My sister and I made the mistake of trying to watch Game 1 of the Astros-Braves series on Monday night and ended up quitting after Atlanta scored their third hit; the game ended badly, 6-2, but the Astros won last night, so it’s on to Atlanta for Game 3 tomorrow. I am not here for cheating discourse: I thought it was ingenious (and hilariously low-tech) and if the Yankees are mad about something, it’s something I don’t have to be mad about. Those are the rules.
This week the independent probe into allegations that the Chicago Blackhawks did nothing to punish the video coach who allegedly sexually assaulted a player dropped its final report. It’s over one hundred pages long and a real doozy. Of the many mealy-mouthed statements made by the organization and those involved in the cover-up, not one has taken responsibility or apologized. So far, the only person to apologize is the player who was assaulted—he apologized for not pressing harder, for not publicizing it, because the video coach in question went on to assault a minor. Sometimes, it’s really hard to be a fan of something. Sometimes I just want to run off into the woods and scream. Here, look at Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov holding puppies.
Is Amazon Changing the Novel? by Parul Sehgal (New Yorker)
It is the hour for despair. The writer sits, crumpled and waiting. The sun sets. He lays his head upon his desk. A plot—he must have a plot. The public, ravenous for story, has no use for his fine observations and his subtle characterizations. A plot: his publishers require it, his wife demands it—there is a child now. Slowly, miserably, he gouges the words out of himself. George Gissing’s 1891 novel, “New Grub Street,” is one of the most pitiless portraits of the writing life in any age. Set among London’s hacks, grinds, and literary “women of the inkiest description,” the story follows Edwin Reardon’s nervous and financial collapse as he struggles to complete a book that might sell. His friend, the sleek and cynical Jasper Milvain, regards his efforts as so much unnecessary fuss. “Literature nowadays is a trade,” Milvain maintains, a matter of deft pandering. Find out what the reader wants and supply it, for God’s sake, with style and efficiency.
You’ve Lost Our Trust, Hockey by Matt Larkin (Sport Illustrated)
If the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL dig themselves any deeper, they’ll reach the Earth’s core. It’s that bad. During a week of shocking revelations about the sexual assault allegations against former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich, culminating in former Blackhawks left winger Kyle Beach revealing himself as the victim in a devastating interview on TSN Wednesday, any party remotely complicit in the coverup has doubled down, tripled down, quadrupled down and quintupled down on buck passing, victim blaming, gaslighting and attempting to paint guilty parties as victims. It’s embarrassment upon embarrassment upon embarrassment for the sport. Where do we start?
In Conversation: Dave Grohl (Vulture)
I don’t think any of us started playing music with a career in mind. You fall in love with the Beatles, and you pick up an old instrument, and it becomes this puzzle or this game. You find like-minded friends who are trapped by the same obsession. You start playing your own shitty songs in the basement. Maybe you do it in front of people and you start to crave this relationship with the audience. The other stuff, if it ever comes, comes much later. It’s a different world now. I do think as I watch my daughters learn to play music, they’re starting from the same place I did. The initial intention is genuine, and that never goes away.
Revisiting the 4 Hour Work Week | ‘Team Performance Above All Else:’ Blackhawks executives out as findings of sexual assault investigation are released | How the Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive | Zombie Barneys! The Genius of Spirit Halloween | How the Mountain Goats’ “No Children” Became a TikTok Viral Hit | Astros’ Interpreter is both a key voice and a crucial set of eyes for team
READING: Deep Work by Cal Newport
WATCHING: Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin)
LISTENING: “That’s Right” by Lyle Lovett
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.