NaNoWriMo, Punching Keys, and the Beginner

“Punch the keys for Gods sake!”
– William Forrester, Finding Forrester

Any opportunity to both write about NaNoWriMo and/or use a quote from my favourite film of all time will more often than not result in my ability to write at length about writing, especially with regards to the context of National Novel Writing Month. In this case, putting the two together, there’s really no better time to start writing for the first time than in NaNoWriMo, but the biggest obstacle that prevents prospective amateur writers from participating is that dreaded word count goal.

Like running a marathon, one does not simply expect to go from nothing straight to a novel writing machine. It takes practice, and a lot of perseverance. While practicing proper prose is a practical method for preparation, one who has never written at length in their lifetime will probably be more held back by the demanding nature of simply writing so much in general. It’s why, if one is starting NaNoWriMo for the first time, the best way to prepare for the event is to simply practice typing a lot.

“Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two.”
– William Forrester, Finding Forrester

The rhythm of typing is something that does not come naturally to someone who has never written before. It’s that zone that a writer gets into when the words start flowing from his or her subconscious onto the computer screen, typewriter, or other sort of interface. 1,667, the average daily word count that one is expected to keep in order to pace themselves to fifty thousand, does not actually take too long to do if one is a proficient typist. Assuming a reasonable typing speed of forty words per minute one is expected to spend approximately forty minutes each day typing words, which will definitely require more time considering that those words will be made up.

Despite my confidence in my own typing speeds, falling somewhere between 70 and 80 words per minute, that speed falls quite a bit when I’m not in that zone. It’s hard to find the zone right away, but in my experience doing NaNoWriMo and other writing endeavors, all that it takes to get going is to simply write, as Mr. Forrester eloquently points out. Which is why, in preparation for NaNoWriMo, one of my exercises leading up to the start of the event is simply writing out someone else’s novel. It’s an interesting alternative to reading a novel straight, as it forces the typist to take in each word as it occurs, and it sheds a bit more insight into the rhythm of which the story is created, rather than consumed.

It is the gap between those two methods that new writers who come from extensive reading backgrounds are often overwhelmed. Reading a book is easy. Writing one is another story altogether. For the next few days, consider simply writing 1,667 words of a novel that you’ve already read, or are currently reading. Doing that for the remaining 10 days is a great way of getting into the daily rhythm of writing out a story. It’ll definitely be more difficult to write something out of thin air, and will probably take a bit more time than initially planned, but having a running start with establishing a nice typing rhythm does wonders for when the real thing happens.

“When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.”
– William Forrester, Finding Forrester

Unsurprisingly, the book that I’m currently typing out deals with subject matter that will probably be relevant to the story that I’m writing this year. In fact, it’s not even a novel, but Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up. This year’s novel is about a teenage girl who discovers the knuckleball and strives to be the ace pitcher for her high school baseball team. The title is called Perfect Princess.

Typing out Wherever is a fantastic opportunity for me to experience a number of new approaches and styles in my writing. Firstly, it’s in a first-person, present tense perspective, which surprisingly adds a lot of tension to the story. For a sports-themed novel, that’s exactly the kind of effect I want to have, especially when combined with examining the idea of having a girl coming up and dominate in a boy’s world, and dealing with the consequences within the narrative. It’s something that I’ve never done before, and there will definitely be a lot of vibes coming from Revolutionary Girl Utena, an anime series that I recently started watching for this very reason, and am immediately falling in love with it.

I’m benefiting greatly from always punching the keys; if NaNoWriMo sounds like something you would do, and if you’re interested in trying it out, go register on their website, and get practicing with that typing. It’s a remarkably fun experience, especially once those words become your own.


Loving writing all the time.

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Posted in NaNoWriMo

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