NaNoWriMo lurks behind every corner

Ah, NaNoWriMo. That most glorious of times, when writers from here and yon hunch together over keyboards and try to squeeze out a literary mass. Messy, tangled, twisted, and in desperate need of a bath (no, I mean the manuscript, though this could perhaps fairly describe some of the authors involved in the event… present company naturally excluded), but despite all of this, the world sees these new stories born into it.

The inherent quality of the manuscripts is generally irrelevant. Primary goal number one alpha is to write 50,000 words, with Primary goal number one beta being that those 50,000 words encapsulate a whole story. To clarify, it is quantity over quality.

I have participated in three (I think?) NaNoWriMo events in the past. I have not yet ‘won’ any NaNos. That is to say, I have not successfully written 50,000 words in the month of November. In fact, I have sort of been a non-success, in that I am still editing the book from two years ago and have not finished last year’s new story. In my defense, I am getting better, for it took me nearly two years to finish the first draft from two NaNos ago while I am on the verge of completing last year’s. Perhaps I shall, in time, move my NaNoWriMo completion time up to a mere six months.

NaNoWriMo comes under criticism by some in the industry who rightly claim that the nature of the competition poses strict limitations on the writer. I agree that the structure is a bit unforgiving, especially for those that miss a day, or fall short of their goals on a day. I usually start out strong for the first several days, maybe a week, before failing to pass muster on my word count and starting the inevitable chain reaction that leads to me ultimately conceding defeat about two thirds of the way through the month. In no way should anyone expect that any particular method is a one size fits all solution.

But I would like to think (and anecdotal evidence supports this) that NaNoWriMo is more than just a race to the 50k. It is more intended to be about encouragement than defeat, because even if you do not finish before the month is up, you have more now than you did before. It is also about community, about knowing that some thousands of other writers are going on this crazy journey at the same time, too. I have sort of had trouble with both of these ideals. With the depression lurking in the background (when it bothers to lurk rather than park itself on top of the hose that pumps serotonin into my brain spaces), any failure perceived or provable tends to overshadow the victoriea. I am getting better at that one, but the social side of things? Look. I just cannot easily insert myself into social situations. It just is not my style. I show up to parties so fashionably late that the party is over and now they are just looking for volunteers to break down the folding tables and stack chairs. (Thinking about that analogy, I am recalling that I sure spent a heck of a lot of time in my youth doing that very thing at church. Perhaps this is because those available to do the post-event pickup were on an age bell-curve flipped upside down, and we can hardly expect the elderly to do more than a fair share of the labor. Still, I learned to hate folding tables. Did not stop me from owning one now…)

Because I am so ingloriously bad at reaping the intended benefits of NaNoWriMo, I have been weighing whether or not it is worthwhile for me to participate. I could get about the average amount of social interaction I typically get from NaNoWriMo by just cheering on the other participants, then stick to the writing schedule I have been developing for over a year now. On the other hand… it feels like I would be letting myself down by not participating. Is that silly? Perhaps, but this is my mind and I shall use it as I see fit.

One less advertised benefit of NaNoWriMo (for the event is structured to encourage new writers rather than grizzled frizzled old vets) is that it presents a semi-structured impetus for trying something different for a bit. Variety is important in writing, for it is easy to get too far down into the trenches. At least hopping from one trench to the next gives you a little change of scenery.

I think that I will give NaNoWriMo another shot this year, but I am not going to stick hard and fast to the rules. I will not be writing one work, but rather two! Yes! My evil plan is revealed, and all shall fall to its madness!

Er, that is to say, two works of around 25,000 words in length. I hope to write two novellas in a series I have been developing. Arguably they are the same story, if you consider the overarching series to be a story, but I do not think anyone is going to care enough to carry on this argument with me.

I think (read: hope) this will be a better approach to the event for me. I need to learn better how to push past the self-limiting doubt that makes this process much longer than it needs to be.

In order to do this, I need to finish writing the first novella that has been sitting around for several months now, languishing in self doubt land. If I can wrap this one up and whip two outlines out in the next month, I think I can stand a chance of making a good run of NaNoWriMo this year.

Will I win? Eh, probably not, but that’s okay. So long as I keep showing up, we will call that a victory.

In the meantime, I need to wrap this manuscript! Back to work…

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo lurks behind every corner

  1. I participated for the first time last year, and though I completed the 50,000 words, I don’t consider it a win, as a huge chunk of story (the middle) is missing. What I did achieve was finally writing down this idea I had for years.
    It made me realise that it wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.
    So I would add that to the benefits. Write anything, and maybe forget it. Just make room for new stories. Not every idea has to become a best-seller, or even a finished book, but every idea deserves to be explored.

    1. To me, the ‘official’ rules aside, any significant progress counts as Winning. You’re right about exploring ideas. The first book I wrote beginning to end won’t see the light of day for years to come (if ever), but writing it relieved that tension and started churning up new things to think about in the process.

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