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And the world goes quiet...

by Frances Moritz

November's always a quiet month for The Lady Gamer. We're mainly based in Chicagoland, and, if finances and life permitted attending all of them, there's a convention every weekend; two are exclusively gaming.

But that's not where The Lady Gamer loses our writers to every year. No, it's a more time-oriented addiction that hits every November. No, not holiday shopping either. Once a year, for the month of November, several of our members participate in NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a fifty thousand word novel in one month (and it's a short month at that, though at least it's not February).

Feel free to read that sentence over again if you need a reality check. Yes, it sounds insane. Assuming you can write every day in the month of November, that means you need to write 1,667 words each day. It's probably safer to assume that you'll miss a day or two, either for Real Life or writer's block, and aim for 2,000 or more words each day, just to be on the safe side.

You're really creating a rough draft, since you're supposed to skip editing in order to reach the word count goal. You can always go back in December or any time next year to clean it up.

I tried it in 2004, more on a whim than anything, deciding on Halloween to give it a try. I gave up two chapters in due to Real Life interference, though I have promised one person that I will some day go back and finish it, so she can read the rest of the story. But each NaNoWriMo is started from zero words, so even if I choose to participate again, I can't work on that story for the contest.

There's no real prize to work for, nobody to compete against (technically - some regions or people do compete on word count), so what's the motivation? And why are so many gamers interested in it?

A large part of the motivation is the ability to push yourself beyond what's reasonably achievable. The concept does sound insane, even split into the individual day word counts. When you add onto that working full-time, or managing a household, or any other tasks you have to deal with in an average month, you have to steal snippets of time here and there in order to write. But it gives you a goal and a deadline, and a lot of people work better under pressure.

The appeal to gamers... well, that's a bit harder. Almost all the people I know who participate in NaNoWriMo are gamers, but they don't necessarily write something that has ties to gaming. Sure, you can see the link for any gamer that's writing a fantasy novel, but what about the gamer that chooses to write a fifty thousand word porn novel? Or something historical? I think it links back to the core appeal of gaming - the ability to use our minds, to explore our creative sides, and by writing, to share that with others.

Many of us have aspirations of having our work published in print. I don't think I've met a gamer yet who doesn't have some game or game addition that they'd like to see published. I suspect it's a by-product of being creative; we'd like some recognition for our creative efforts.

NaNoWriMo also gives gamers and writers the chance to expand their horizons, to write something outside their normal worlds, or the opportunity to bring an entire story to life all at once, instead of dragged out over a couple years of gaming sessions. And, in the case of the latter, complete control of the characters, intead of letting people like my husband railroad the story line.

So, the best of luck to our nutcases staff members who are participating in NaNoWriMo, and we look forward to hearing from you again in December!

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