Don’t look for a presidential proclamation; there isn’t one. All you have to do is to set aside your life for 30 days and write at least 50,000 words of an original novel (a mere 1,666.66 words a day). The observance of the month is slightly more beneficial to society than International Talk Like a Pirate Day, is almost as froody as Towel Day, is marginally less likely to get you truck-bombed than Everybody Draw Mohammad Day, and will definitely cheese off your significant other more than March Madness. There’s even a cool website run by a nonprofit to help you do it.

Last year, I woke up one October morning having dreamt a complete novel, the title, the characters, the plot, everything. It was semi-autobiographical, not sci-fi, and felt important to me. I scribbled the ideas down but lamented that I didn’t have a chance to write it while the dream was fresh. The next week, I learned about NaNoWriMo. I shoved my other project kicking and screaming into a drawer, signed on at the website, cracked my knuckles over my keyboard, and counted down the minutes until November 1.

I hit 50,000 words on November 20 and finished the first draft of the manuscript in early December—about 90,000 words. It turned out better than I ever dreamed. However, in all the excitement, I missed an important detail. My story was interwoven with lyrics from dozens of songs. So unless I wanted to cough up an estimated $200,000 in licensing fees, my book was never going to see the light of day. (If you come by sometime, I might let you read it. If I say no, it means you’re probably a thinly disguised character.)

So I wrote a dud. NaNoWriMo was still a great time. It gave me another chance to go through the process of getting from a blinking cursor to The End. I don’t have a magic dream book this year, but I’ve got an idea simmering on the burner. You’re probably not in this one. But you’re welcome to join me.

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