As the weather starts to cool, the names of two events pop up across the internet with increasing frequency: Inktober and NaNoWriMo. Sometimes they are mentioned in exclamations of joy and triumph, while other times the names are cursed due to lack of preparation or fear of disappointment. The fact that doesn’t change is that so many artists participate in these two spectacular events, sharing milestones and achievements with other participants, as well as facebook and tumblr followers. The art for each event is different, but the idea is the same: encourage artists to push themselves and practice their art.
Inktober has just come to a close but with a quick hashtag search on tumblr will turn up the fruits of its participants’ labors: thousands and thousands of pieces of art, original and fanart, lovingly shared with the internet. The Inktober initiative is a relatively new concept, created in 2009 by Utah based artist, Jake Parker, to help push himself to practice and improve artistically. Since then it has become a worldwide phenomenon with thousands and thousands of participants. There are official rules, though admittedly not many:
1: Draw with ink. It can be sketched with pencil first, but the final drawing needs to be ink. Not everyone follows this, and there are lots of digital drawings posted as well, the majority seem to stick by this rule.
2: Post it online. The point is to practice and share.
3: Tag it with #Inktober and #Inktober2016 so people can find the art of the participants.
4: Repeat. Every day if you can. If not, as often as possible.
There is also a list of prompts for inspiration, posted on the official Inktober site by Mr. Parker. This was the list for 2016:
A quick tumblr search for Inktober will turn up thousands of results, and there is a huge influx of fanart during the event, something fandoms delight in. There are detailed character portraits, hilarious comics, and many cranked out head-cannon representations. It’s an amazing time to be part of any fandom, because no matter what preference someone might have, there is most likely an artist out there ready to draw it. Here are a few examples of Inktober fanart:
Immediately after Inktober ends, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts. This event is both more strict and more fluid than Inktober. According to the official site “National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” The plan is to start writing a novel, one continuous work writing, on November 1st, and write a whopping 50,000 words, hopefully completing the story, buy the time November ends. There is registration on the site and a section where you can submit your writing that will keep track of your progress. The site offers merchandise both for announcing your participation and declaring your NaNoWriMo victory. The first NaNoWriMo took place in July of 1999, and it was more of a pact between 21 friends trying to make their mark on the world with their writing. And by the time it was over they realized they had something good going, an event that not only got people writing, but was enjoyable, too.
“Fun was something we hadn’t expected. Pain? Sure. Embarrassment? Yes. Crippling self-doubt followed by a quiet distancing of ourselves from the entire project? You bet.
But fun? Fun was a revelation. Novel writing, we had discovered, was just like watching TV. You get a bunch of friends together, load up on caffeine and junk food, and stare at a glowing screen for a couple hours. And a story spins itself out in front of you.” -Chris Baty, one founder of NaNoWriMo
By year two, a friend built them a website and the event, moved to November to better “take advantage of the miserable weather”, began to take hold. Now it’s global: last year nearly half a million people participated and became novelists, and it boast 250 (known) published books, including bestseller turned movie Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. On the site you can find local participants and plan events like write-ins and think-tanks to help get the words flowing.
Now not everyone writes an original work, even though that is the general purpose of the event. The founders would like to see a new, start to finish novel created during the month of November, but some people use the event like Inktober and just write whatever tickles their fancy during the event. As long as they get words on paper they feel accomplished. Now the event is only just starting so there is nothing to show for it yet, but who knows? Maybe the next great work of nerdy fiction will be born in the next 30 days. Only time with tell. For those participating, the Word of the Nerd wishes you the best of luck in your quest.
And for those battered and sore artists coming out of Inktober, congratulations. May your muse always be with you and your art ever improve.