NaNoWriMo and the Night of Writing Dangerously.

imagesSister Sharon’s post about NaNoWriMo got me thinking.

Writers have different ways to get productive – the output varies, but the method usually stays the same for each of us. Like superstitious sportsmen, we follow a pattern that seems to work for us. I have my own preparation method, but I’ve heard of others who do some or all of these techniques to get the blood flowing and the ideas roaring in.


  • Light a candle
  • Meditate
  • Crack knuckles
  • Select music (or put on noise-cancelling headphones)
  • Close the door
  • Disconnect from Internet, email, and phones
  • Breathe deeply
  • Read over yesterday’s writing
  • Edit
  • Get in the zone
  • Begin

That’s pretty much it. Writing’s a solitary sport.

Or is it? What if we make it a spectator sport?

That’s just what the geniuses over at NaNoWriMo did with the Night of Writing Dangerously.

Every year toward the end of the month of November, they rent out the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco overlooking the twinkling lights of The City and host close to 400 writers for cocktails and dinner and lots of candy. And did I mention the desserts? Apparently these people think writers run on sugar. (They may have something there.)

The night starts with a hosted cocktail party – writers show up in costume (or not – the theme is always noir). Cosmonoveltons, Noveltinis, or beer and wine appear like Harry Potter’s magic for your pleasure, just tip the bartender and start to mingle with people of your own ilk.

It’s an amazing sight: tables of eight lit up by eight laptops, the writers’ intense faces highlighted by their screens. Multiply that by fifty tables and you have an incredible display of 400 people working on their own projects in twenty-minute spurts. The energy is unbelievable.

ballroom fullThe idea is to get words down on the page – as many as you can. There are contests, high-fives, lots of laughter, and high spirits, probably fueled by the afore-mentioned sugar. There’s an actual candy buffet table. Unbelievable.

I attended last year thinking it was a boondoggle – not much would get done, but I’d make some new friends and be able to talk over our strange lives as writers, have a few drinks, learn a little, get inspired by fellow writers, maybe win an IPad or a fabulous basket of writing goodies, and go home the next day.

Boy, was I wrong.

At each place setting was a green table tent with a child’s handwriting, telling of the book they would one day write. Mine was written by Rebecca in third grade: “Amelie, a mermaid with magical powers, would start to clean up the oceans and help to keep earth safe.” We read them to each other and got a little teary-eyed.

The event is to raise money for the Young Writers Program, which supports project-based learning and writing literacy. Check out the website. There’s a “dare me” button that’s a great prompt. Last year, 380 dangerous writers raised over $63,000 to support the Young Writers Program.

Between twenty-minute spurts of writing, I laughed with my tablemates, refreshed drinks, grabbed more candy, and compared notes. I sparked some ideas. I became inspired. I learned about Scrivener. I learned about Write or Die. I learned about publishing and new agents. And I wrote. For six hours. At midnight when they kicked us out several of us went down to the bar and continued (with coffee – OK some were Irish coffees, but still) to write because we were too keyed up to stop.

I learned I don’t need complete silence, isolation, and myself as company to write. The sound of four hundred keyboards, a chuckle here and there, and a gong when time was up, was incredibly freeing, liberating, even. Just write. And some of it was really good. I came home invigorated, with some new scenes, new ideas, and new friends.

And it gave me an idea.

Why not have your own party? Invite fellow writers over for a six-hour day with a camp theme (safari?). Make an event of it – if overnight, have them come wearing PJ’s! If evening, have them dress up in cocktail attire and hit the keyboards to Rat Pack music. If you are all horror or sci-fi writers, decorate accordingly and have fun with it! (Ooh, a murder mystery party! Follow clues on breaks. Maybe you’ll get an idea for your own mystery!)

Just for fun. And maybe some productive time. But mostly fun.



Author: Kathy Weyer

Kathy Weyer is a reformed Human Resource executive and Marriage and Family Therapist. She has worked in several hospices as a grief and bereavement counselor.

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo and the Night of Writing Dangerously.”

  1. There’s no way I could write under those conditions. I would be so distracted by everything around me I’d hardly get a single sentence down. In fact, Alex and I once booked a solitary retreat at a gorgeous traditional inn about three hours from where we live. The plan was to spend twp days just writing in the peace of the sea side resort. Well. That didn’t happen. The atmosphere was so gorgeous it was a distraction. I work best in my own little room, with a candle, a cup of coffee and the sound of my bird chirping encouragements.

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