NWWTHYWM? What the hell am I talking about? Allow me a few paragraphs to set the stage.
I’m sure most readers of this blog have heard of National Novel Writing Month, known fondly as NaNoWriMo. Begun in 1999, NaNoWriMo is an annual event that challenges everyone who feels they have a novel in them to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 each year.
I know many writers who’ve tried this, and I did myself a decade ago. I’d been wanting to develop a recently published literary short story into a novel. NaNoWriMo got me cranking out the prose, but by December 1, I’d realized the short story didn’t have as much potential as I’d thought. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, it only took me a month to figure that out, so I’d say it was a good investment.
I haven’t done NaNoWriMo since because I also figured out that I do my best writing when I edit myself as I go. A slower, thoughtful pace is more satisfying to me. However, I do appreciate other aspects of the program, namely, that NaNoWriMo gives you permission just to write, intensively, day after day, for the sake of the writing itself. That permission to write without rules and self-imposed restrictions (content-wise anyway) is an appealing concept to me at this stage in my writing life.
Equal thanks for the conception of NWWTHYW must go to Lisabet Sarai and her January column here at ERWA, “Writing Commando.” Lisabet eloquently describes the published writer’s “education on the tyranny of genres, what sells and what doesn’t, what you can and cannot include in a book aimed at a particular market niche.” And yet, as she writes:
“I yearn for the freedom – the innocence – of my first years writing erotica. I've started to realize I'll never be a best seller (and I'm not even sure I want to be). So why should I care about pleasing a mass of readers? I know there are some people who'll appreciate my particular approach, my personal blend of romanticism and filth. I should strip off my official author's uniform and just write to please myself, and them.”
“Hear, hear,” I actually said aloud as I read this passage. Writing just to please myself and the audience who “gets” me? But... what would that even mean? Then I got to thinking--what if erotica writers, or all writers as a matter of fact, banded together to join in a Write Whatever the Hell You Want Month? (Feel free to change the “H” to an “F.”)
Yes, Fellow Writers, that’s one whole month when you can write whatever the hell you want without feeling you have to meet some external standard of worth or profitability. Your ending doesn’t have to be happy or edgy or ambivalent--it can be as many of these things as you can manage. The protagonist doesn’t have to be attractive or likeable or complex or sexy. There can be as much or as little sex as you like and the length can be “too” long or short. The taboos—and isn’t it interesting that supposedly transgressive erotic expression has more publishers’ rules than any other genre?--need not apply because publication and pleasing someone else is not the goal here.
The goal is simply to please yourself. For one whole month.
Yet, even after happily fantasizing about the idea of NWWTHYWM (or should it be “NaWriWhaTHeYouWaMo”?) for about a month, I’m still not even sure what I would write if I truly could write whatever I wanted. Which is, perhaps, the very reason I should try it.
Won't you join me?
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor