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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Column: NaNoWriMo

Say that three times fast. That whacked-out, cracked-out acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s on – along with No-Shave November.

Therefore, your mission is to A) write a novel this month, and B) look like the Wolfman. It’s not much to ask.

Did you know that writing the next great American novel ranks fifth on Time magazine’s list of Americans’ most desired ambitions? Did you know 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot? Did you know gullible isn’t in the dictionary?

Okay, cutting the sass, writing a novel is a cool thing to do. Mentioning you’ve done such a thing is a legit conversation piece. If you happen to write the next Catcher in the Rye, emo kids will worship you for decades to come.

The objective of NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words down by the end of the month. If you start tomorrow, that’s about 3,000 words a day. A bit steep, I confess. But it’s not actually the contest itself that matters. It’s the motivating force behind it.

There’s no prize to be won other than the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve contributed to the name of fine literature. Or God-awful fan fiction. Even if you only write, “Then Ferdinand got mugged on the MUNI” and give up, you’ll still have succeeded in expressing yourself through a creative outlet.

It doesn’t matter how crappy they are, for in the words of literary giant Ernest Hemingway, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Those pondering how a college student can possibly fit a novel into their busy schedule of sleeping, homeworking and drinking, I, along with Mr. Hemingway, can tell you that peak writing hours are conveniently and roughly behind peak getting-kicked-out-of-bars hours.

The time you’ll spend slaving away over your precious can vary greatly. Kerouac’s On The Road was written in two weeks on a scroll, while J.K. Rowling estimates Harry Potter occupied roughly 17 years of her life.

Now, in the realm of inspiration, drawing from any real-life experience works, as does considering the most ridiculous scenario you can come up with and using it as a starting point. Muses come in handy here. You can write an existentialist work for tweakers who like to contemplate the meaning of life, or a Harlequin for old ladies to peruse in grocery store lines. A conglomeration of the two has potential – if well-executed, an existentialist harlequin could be a decent read.

If Lauren Conrad can get a book deal, surely one of you out there can write something better. Although the word “novel” implies fiction, it doesn’t have to be so long as it floats your boat. It can be a collection of episodes from your family’s annual shitshow/Christmas party. Or a memoir of the time Ashley forced you to be her square-dancing partner at camp, which led to the best experience of your pre-pubescent life because she was real trampy and kissed with tongue.

When asked what he would write a book about – presuming he were ever to write a book – my friend who we’ll refer to by his porn star name of Pancho San Juan said, “Probably party life etiquette. It would include the many variations of beer pong (and those crazy kids who call it ‘Beirut’). Stuff like how you should always pass the hookah to the left and never violate the sanctity of rotation. I think it’d be a good seller.”

Don’t think you’re too crazy for this stuff. Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club in order to disturb the publishers who had rejected his first novel. It ended up being adapted into a hugely popular film in which Brad Pitt has a six-pack and is shirtless frequently. You know you want to be responsible for the bestowment of such a gift on pop culture.

If you’re sincerely interested in crafting a masterpiece, though, I recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing” as a starting guide. If you do succeed in becoming the next Tolstoy, and I in any way inspired you to do this, a glowing shout-out on the front page should suffice.

Finally, if you can come up with better subject matter than fairies vampires who glitter in sunlight, mad props to you. You’re ahead of the curve already.

MICHELLE RICK is pleased that this week’s column led her to a brief history lesson on the roots of beer pong. Get in on the wealth of info at marick@ucdavis.edu.


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