Write a novel in a month

Dr. Vivian Blevins And then

October 5, 2013

Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Why haven’t you?

* I wouldn’t know where to start.

* I don’t have time with work and kids.

* I wasn’t a good student when I took Mrs.____ for high school English.

* I’d be embarrassed if anyone knew I was even trying to write one.

Recently, I finished teaching a five-week creative writing classes to AT&T union employees from across the country. How did you do that, Vivian? I sat at my computer with a camera recording every blink of my eyes for three hours each evening on Wednesdays and Thursdays, using Blackboard Elluminate, a technology platform. It was live and students could ask questions and make comments at any time during the three-hour sessions.

The majority of them had never taken a creative writing class, and they submitted memoirs, stories, plays, scripts, and poems that were thoughtful, stunning, and beautifully written. Some examples:

* A memoir set in Virginia in the time when the Civil Rights issue had the nation in an uproar,

* A play in which a guilty person is being assaulted by the voice of irrationality and the voice of reason,

* A story in which a couple escape a lifeless planet,

* A concrete poem in the shape of a hypodermic needle written from the persona of a person who has just donated blood.

The plan is, if all goes well, for union workers who are eligible for the Alliance Employee Growth and Development, Inc., classes and me to begin a class in late October and November in which participants will write the first draft of a novel in a month.

You may be thinking that this is overly ambitious or downright crazy. Allow me to explain. In 1999 in San Francisco (Where else?), Chris Baty and 20 others signed up to do just that. Baty reports, “We hadn’t taken any creative writing classes in college, or read any how-to books on story or craft. And our combined post-elementary-school fiction output would have fit comfortable on a Post-it Note.” The goal was to write a 50,000 word novel, and six participants made it by the end of the month. Others came close to the 50,000 words and still others, after 1,000 words or so, decided they did not, after all, want to write a novel.

You might be saying by this point, Vivian, why are you telling us this now?

Since that initial project in 1999, every year November has been designated National Novel Writing Month, and I want to give you ample time to get a group organized, maybe even read one or so of the books on how to do it. I’ve studied six thus far in preparing for the seminars I will teach, and each has different and enlightening perspectives, just like your novel will be uniquely yours, a product of your imagination.

So start thinking now of that group you might organize: a church group, a service club, any of the Masonic organizations, a garden club, a sorority, a college alum group, former Musettes or Boys Choir members, a library, a professional organization, a college, a high school, a sports team whose legs are no longer suitable for running down the field but whose brains still work and finger are intact for the word processing, a community organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous or another self-help group, or some combination of all or part of the above.

The list is limited only by your imagination, and the size of the group is no problem — two will work as will 20.

Start your journey by visiting www.nanowrimo.org and take it from there. Let me know how yours turns out, and I’ll let you know about mine.

Send comments or suggestions to: vbblevins@woh.rr.com.