The Last Stretch For NaNoWriMo


Eight thousand words. That’s all I need to finish my seventh run with National Novel Writing Month. Writers look at the challenge to write a 5o,000-word story in 30 days like a hike up a mountain. But it’s the last stretch, the short distance left to the majestic peak, when you’re the most vulnerable. I have been exhausted this month for various reasons. Now I have to put aside all distractions, deny my chronic habit of procrastination, and hammer out eight thousand words by Friday. I have to finish my ascent!

I can usually start writing after jotting down several pages of notes, or write on a blank screen whatever bizarre idea comes out of my head. The first paragraph might be quite vulgar, or it could be rather meaningful. The first paragraph might be complex or ambiguous. That block of text is meant to catch your attention, or perhaps just my own. Here, let me demonstrate:

(A) Carter stopped his horse after a frantic dash over the western plateau. After twenty hard miles, both man and beast were on the breaking point. He checked over his shoulder for his pursuers. He was now convinced that the four horsemen in the distance were not set upon the land for the apocalypse, but the bounty placed upon his head by a vengeful banker in Dodge City.

(B) Penguins are not generally known for considerable pursuits, yet when aliens set their spaceships upon the ice, the flightless water fowl became the primary representatives of an ecologically diverse and terrible confused planet.

(C) There was a time when the Ferris Bay Cavaliers were the most popular fife and drum corps on the Pacific seaboard. Then there was the Year of Misfortune when their lead piper picked up the measles and two of their snare drummers were badly injured in a bus accident. A fourth player lost all his money in a poorly managed poker game, and a fifth man ran away with a mistress to Jacksonville. Yet the band played on with noble purpose, scrounging up what replacements could be found in the regional schools, and pushing for the national championship that could propel them. . . or break them.

With full disclosure, I will admit that most of this text is extracted from my posterior with little preparation. And it isn’t exactly good writing. But NaNoWriMo isn’t pushing for golden pages. You take the challenge to write as much as you can, as fast as you can, with all the frenzy and frustration of a professional. Who knows? If you like your story, clean it up and push it to 80,000 words. Then you’ll have a manuscript worth selling to the publishers. But you can also do it for sheer fun, and the challenge, and the glory of making that last stretch of paper.

I’m almost there, and I can’t wait to succeed.


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