November sucks. Halloween’s over, and Christmas isn’t for nearly two months. Thanksgiving’s nice, but for the most part this is a dull, gray thirty days of the year that you just have to endure to get back to the good parts. That’s why I decided to do something different this year. Instead of thirty days of drear, I decided to make November thirty days of challenge and excitement. This year, I decided to tackle NaNoWriMo.
For those of you still unfamiliar with the term, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers of all stripes, from professional bestsellers to novices tackling their first novel, challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month, the equivalent of a short novel. Many people use the opportunity to start a new work, but there’s no requirement; it can be a chunk of a draft you’ve already begun, and the story doesn’t need to finish in 50,000 words. It’s not a contest, and there’s no entry fee or judge hovering over your shoulder. You’re your own judge of success.
50,000 words in a month. 1667 words, at least, every day for thirty days. At this point many writers, even regular, disciplined writers, are scratching their heads and wondering, “Why write a book this way?”
These are my reasons:
1) November sucks. It’s boring and dull, and it comes at about that point in the year when many of us start to wonder if we accomplished enough in 2016. (I’ve decided this is almost always a misguided question; more about that in next week’s post.) Why not make things interesting with a personal challenge?
2) Because my current work in progress was stalling out. I started the fifth book in my science fiction series in February and it was just inching along–a few hundred words here, a few hundred there–until nine months later, there were only a bit less than 40,000 words on the page. I wasn’t even halfway through what I’d outlined and was running out of steam. The slow pace was making too much time for me to self-edit and be in my own head too much, getting in the way of my own creative process. Enter NaNoWriMo, a shock therapy for the writer’s soul that forces one to charge through creative blocks through sheer volume.
3) Solidarity with other writers. It’s just plain fun to log onto Twitter or Facebook (not for too long, of course), see other writers posting about the pains and joys of writing, and add something of my own. Writing is a lonely profession; there’s no water cooler to gather round, so we made our own.
4) To go pro. For a lot of long-time writers, blasting out 2000 or even 3000 words is just a normal writing day. But you need to build stamina to get to that point, both mental and physical. Typing or writing long hand makes physical demands on your body. So along with being shock therapy, NaNoWriMo is also endurance training.
5) Because I can. This year is the first NaNoWriMo I could realistically participate in. I’ve been either an undergrad or a grad student nearly every November since I learned about this challenge, and universities have the unfortunate tendency of imposing big, non-negotiable deadlines in November. (The one year I was out of school and working, I had just finished my first novel and was taking a break while I let it steep, so to speak.)
So yeah. By the end of this month, instead of a 40,000-word manuscript, I’ll have a 90,000-word manuscript. Will it be a finished novel? I don’t know, but it’ll be pretty damn near.