November is National Novel Writing Month

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What’s good about leftover giant bowls of candy laying around the house is that endless amounts of sugar can provide short bursts of energy – a necessity since November is National Novel Writing Month, or, as it’s known on Twitter, #NaNoWriMo. As it’s billed on the official web site, “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” Personally, I’ll be taking a different track this month, which will be editing. I made the mistake of finishing the first draft of my next manuscript in October, and while I’d love to just jump into the next book, I gotta deal with that one first (I’ll probably sneak some words in, though – the new story is bursting from my brain!).

For me, NaNoWriMo is about camaraderie. I have spent the last several months engaging the writing world. Through facebook, Twitter, blogs and whatever other channels I can find I’ve been working to tap into the expertise, support and enthusiasm that comes with building relationships with other writers. It’s been a great experience, and it’s been interesting to see that despite an extremely competitive business, there are many out there hawking their books that also understand “we’re all in this together,” “pay it forward” and “you never know who you might meet.” In November, it all comes together, as writers can count on people they’ve never met to push us to loftier goals. I’m very much looking forward to it. For my career, but also for what I know these relationships can become.

Just over a year ago, my father passed away. My father was a photographer – dedicated his life to it (check out www.bootstrapmemories.net for his amazing photos). He was also a bit of a hermit, living by himself in South Florida. Even more so toward the end when he started to get sick. At that point he really only left his condo to go to the doctor – he would brag to me about how he found a way to have butter delivered right to his front door! But despite being home bound, he had a social life that far exceeded mine. Through online forums and message boards, my father had amassed an enormous network of friends and supporters. He talked to me often about his friends that he’d never met in person, and how they shared their photographs, stories and laughs, and was famous in the forums for two things: (1) getting repetitively banned for inappropriate language and sneaking back in with a different username; and (2) his photos of “The Fence,” a non-descript wooden fence lining the beach in Jupiter Inlet that he turned into a piece of art.

But it wasn’t until after he passed away that I really understood what this network meant to him. When the time came, I’d let his friends know through facebook that he was gone. People began posting their thoughts and condolences on his page. I could not believe the outpouring of support for him. Absolutely incredible. Then, one of his friends e-mailed me to let me know that he’d mentioned my father’s passing in the on-line forums and gave me the link. Beyond belief. I was blown away by the things people were saying about him – how he’d helped them, how he’d coached them, how he’d encouraged them, what he’d meant to them. All from an uncomfortable faux leather sofa with his mangy dog and his laptop next to him. Reading the entries, all I could do was hope that someday I’ll be able to touch as many lives as he did.

Even tonight on Twitter, before the big event even begins, #NaNoWriMo is alive with participants (trending #2 right now). People are ready to get writing and that’s good to see. Curiously, the tweets are not self-centered. Most are wishing other writers luck, asking to see who’s participating. It’s an interesting dynamic in a world where the #1 goal for an author is to sell his or her own book – to an agent, a publisher or a reader. Very encouraging.

As I learned from my father, relationships built on a common goal can be as rewarding personally as they are professionally, and I can’t wait to see who I meet in November.