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September 2010
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November 2010

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge - international now - to write a 50,000 word novel in November. It's only as a a first draft, so quantity trumps quality, the intent being to nudge all those wannabe writers out there to just sit down and write.

I've written off and on since high school, reports and user manuals for work, letters to the editor and blogs for pleasure. Friends have often said, "You read a lot, you should write a book", but I don't think it's quite that simple. While I agree that reading a lot can certainly help you to learn what works and what doesn't, how characters develop, how scenes flow, how locations come to life, it doesn't automatically make you a writer.

I decided anyways to give it a try. I signed up for this last week on the NaNoWriMo site, and have since been planning and researching to get ready. Some may be OK with doing a stream of consciousness or following where the random ramblings take them, but I decided I would feel more comfortable with some structure and direction to create within. And when faced every day with another 1600 words or so to write, might help me to keep rolling. My novel has grown in scope from a simple story about street smart RCMP cop goes to run a northern detachment - there's now a murder, Federal meddling, First Nations concerns, a young heroine with links to local spirits and native lore and graffiti murals - and he has a super-power.

There's an active local presence in the Ottawa region of "Wrimer's", with lots of great ideas and support. We'll see how it goes - I may even have time to blog the process. It would be a great way to procrastinate.

Here's what I sent out as a press release to various local contacts ...

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Summer jobs – Ontario Junior Forest Ranger

My first real summer job was in the early sixties  as a Junior Forest Ranger. Technically, not quite 17, I was too young for the program, but friends of my recently deceased father pulled some strings to get me in. I'm not sure if this job was meant to distract me from all the changes in my life or just get me out of my mother's hair while she moved us all back up north, but off I went on the train. I went with both enthusiasm and nervousness, since even though I'd often vacationed up north doing woodsy things, and had gone to a “Y” camp, this was still a big change for a city boy and loner.
The camp was north of Thessalon, at McCreight's Dam I think - remember, this was 50 years ago. It was a fairly plain setup too, with just a bunkhouse, a dining hall, and a tool shed, all only a year or so old. In fact, the rooms in the bunkhouse were still just bare stud walls, making it basically one big dorm, filled with twenty four 17 yr old guys. It was a varied group of teens, some brash, some shy, some likely sent because of problems at home. However, working together in the bush, eating together at the one long dining table, and sleeping together in the dorm soon broke down the barriers and discouraged shyness. The final barrier came with one of our first construction jobs, building a new outhouse. We decided to make it open concept, with four seats in a row, big screened windows on three sides and a view of the rest of the camp and of the lake. Not much privacy left as you sat there, reading, chatting with friends, waving to others as they passed by outside.

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Writing and summer jobs

I was going to call this "How I Spent My Summer", but was worried at first that people might be scared away by memories of all those September essays in public school. But really, how many of you even remember what you wrote back then? Was there panic as you realized nothing really memorable had happened, that you just hung out all summer, that it was all just a blur? Were you one of the lucky ones that had spent the summer on a ranch or travelling Europe or deep sea diving? Were you one of the creative ones that just let the imagination flow and made it all up? Did any of you realize that the point of the exercise was not what you actually did, it was just to encourage you to write?

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