NaNoWriMo Memoir #4-Swamp part 2

There were a half-dozen of us sitting in the corner of UCLA‘s Northern Lights café. Shrouded in the smell of chips and muffins, we chattered excitedly about odd topics like Victorian travel, vampires, aliens, and soap operas, all in one conversation. This off-kilter chatter was punctuated by timed bouts of silence as we all stared at our laptop screens or notebook pages, focusing intently on our ‘word wars.’ Short sprints of furious writing, as we each try to write the most words by the end of the fifteen-minute battle.

The third time this happened, the event host called out, “Time!” only for me to look up in despair and cry out, “I just murdered a 9-year-old!”

There were a few odd looks from a nearby table as we all called out our word counts, and I got some consolation in knowing that I was not the only one who killed a character in that bout – the writer next to me killed off a teenager in her novel. Apparently that death was much slower than my adorable child getting a bullet to the head.

Writing is a very solitary art, but NaNoWriMo is far from being a solitary challenge. There is a certain amount of camaraderie as you are collectively kidnapped by your imagination with thousands of other writers across the globe – camaraderie or Stockholm syndrome.

While, in terms of productivity, meeting with other writers may seem counterintuitive, coming together and writing in such small, but focused challenges makes one more accountable for any procrastination we may attempt, as opposed to sitting in our homes and staring blankly at our screens.

There are many such events in bookstores, restaurants, and cafes all across a big city like Los Angeles, making it fairly easy for misery to find company.

The majority of interaction is the Internet, which is based on our native craft of writing. The NaNoWriMo website has an extensive forum system with multiple sections for things like research and advice, each with hundreds of threads and thousands of posts.

Topics range from research, to advice on writing, to crying out for help for anything from dying plots, flat characters, or just falling behind on your word count.

The digital furor surrounding NaNoWriMo spills over into other writing websites, into proverbial watering holes, but blogging websites may be the most prominent of these outlets.

WordPress bloggers regularly post live considerations of their plots and characters, Twitter is crawling with writing tips and word counts, and LiveJournal communities are teeming with people looking to procrastinate on their novels, and at the same time desperate to just get some writing done.

For every ‘word war’ taking place at a physical event across the nation, there are nearly a dozen to match online. As friends and writers across the city and the world gather together, they desperately eke out enough words to make the 50,000 mark by the end of the month.

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