We’ve all been there. You have this earth-shatteringly great idea for a novel, or a screenplay, or a hit family musical, and it’s totally original and better than all the other dreck that is out there and will outsell the pants off that Stephenie Meyer character.
And then, you actually try to sit down and write the thing. And by “write,” we mean type a few paragraphs before curling into the fetal position and crying, or being completely absorbed by Internet distractions.
Sound familiar? Enter National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if you’re into the whole brevity thing, equal parts marathon and sprint, where intrepid bestsellers-to-be push pens and cheer each other on in an effort to finish a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. According to the NaNoWriMo website, more than 160,000 people participated in last year’s competition, officially logging more than two billion words. And yes, these novels do get published—perhaps the most notable example is Sara Gruen’s acclaimed Water For Elephants, which was drafted during NaNoWriMo.
Your correspondent attempted NaNoWriMo this year at the urging of a friend, but, like many, threw in the towel before hitting the 1k mark. But that didn’t stop us from looking around to see what other WriMos were working on. Amid all the tales of amorous orcs and dystopian futures (not that either of these things are not awesome), we found a few premises that delved from the usual fare. Maybe after reading these synopses and excerpts from this year’s competition, you’ll be ready to conquer your own writer’s block.
If this list doesn’t inspire you to break out the ol’ word processing machine, this list of literary dares from the Atlanta region (a.k.a. NaNoLanta) just might help you get moving. Our favorite dare? “Include the Kraken.”
Four Days of the Dragon: A Zombie Apocalypse Love Story
Region: Atlanta, Ga.
Synopsis: Dragon*Con. Zombies. Patrick Stewart. Chainsaws. Geek love.
Excerpt: “I once read that the most irritating noise to humans was the sound of cutlery scraping across a plate. Until today, I had thought it a reasonable possibility. Now I know better. The most unpleasant noise in the universe is the reverberating whine of a chainsaw working its way laboriously through human bone in the vast echo chamber of a hotel atrium.”
The Batmania Alternative
Region: Melbourne, Australia
Synopsis: A series of short stories:
“Hector, The Horse Love Doctor” – A talking horse dispenses love advice to people who don’t need it—while being very annoying and not a little disturbing.
“Quest Ad Infintum” – A particular boy is randomly chosen every year to undertake a dangerous quest to save his village. Now that he’s turned 27 he’s getting rather sick of it. This may be the year he finally cracks.
“Spy vs Spy” – Two spies with rather differing methodologies are put together on a dangerous mission, and only their mutual hatred of one other will keep them alive.
“The Lost Morning” – A creature of the night yearns to see the dawn, and he won’t listen to those who know better.
“Wannabe Weatherman” – After 15 years of failed attempts to pass the weatherman exams, John decides it would be easier to make the weather match his predictions than the other way around.
Region: Salt Lake City, Utah
Synopsis: Steampunk murder mystery set in Salt Lake City in 1870.
Region: East Bay, Calif.
Synopsis: A lone park ranger fantasizes about the lives of other people, one of whom is probably fictional.
Wir sind für die Musik geboren (We Were Born For The Music)
Excerpt: “The Australian people — the original Australians, not the white settlers who came onto their land much, much later (over forty thousand years later) — believed that that all of creation was dreamt into being. They call it the Dreamtime. They have songlines, sacred verbal maps of the Australian continent, which helped their people navigate the vast expanses of Australia’s interior and its desert. They also believed that the songs had to be sung by every generation, or else all of creation would cease to be. They believed in the music.
Fast forward several thousand years, and now we have string theory. No matter what your feelings are about string theory, it posits that the world is made up of vibrating filaments and membranes of energy. Does that sound familiar to you? Like, say, how a piano or a guitar works?
In a guitar, the strings vibrate. These disturbances in the air resonate inside the body of the guitar to produce an audible sound.
It’s essentially the same thing in string theory. All matter is made up of tiny strings of vibrating energy. Essentially, we’re the disturbances in the air that were amplified into sound. Or, in this case, being.
So, these two systems of belief (have you seen how emotional theoretical physicists can be?) are separated by over forty thousand years. But why do they sound so similar?
Maybe because the world, this world at least, is made out of music. It may not be music as we understand it, but when you come down to it, it certainly is a kind of music.”