Sorry, I’m going to have to put off the “Five Books for Boys” recommendation to recommend something a little more timely. National Novel Writing Month begins tomorrow.
“NaNoWriMo” encourages people to write a 175-page (50,000 words) novel in the thirty days of November. Prepare to write something wonderful, prepare to write something awful, but just write, write, write. Some perspective directly from their website:
NaNoWriMo is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
In 2007, we had over 100,000 participants. More than 15,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
Basically, be open to writing anything so long as you get the work done. Don’t mistake that for a referendum on good prose, but rather a challenge to step up and finish a project. NaNoWriMo is also pretty good about getting things happening, community-wise, with participant-heavy online discussion boards, the ability to seek your friends and create “buddy lists,” and regional and local gatherings called “write-ins” in real life for you to sit and work in the midst of other writers. The whole deal is a non-profit run pretty much by volunteers and donations.
I’ve started, though never finished, NaNoWriMo every year since 2002. Some stories I remember clearly (my most successful at somewhere near 14,000 words out of the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 was a hard-boiled thriller in which a corrupt priest, a desperate woman and her dead brother, and a man who robs a bank in the nude, all find their threads intertwining as the story goes on) and others I don’t remember (I have some odd story bits on my hard drive from a few years back that might be NaNoWriMo attempts, but their true identity eludes me).
If you haven’t tried writing a novel, or you’ve always wanted to, what better excuse do you need?