Sunday, November 17, 2019

Why I NaNoWriMo

A writer friend asked me the other day why I would bother with NaNoWriMo. She meant it as a compliment since I'm a "real writer" now. "Isn't every month novel-writing month for you?" she asked. 

She has a point. I write every day, come hell or high water. My daily writing chain is now over six years long and along the way I've seen three novels through to publication and written three others that I hope to publish someday. 

So, in that sense, I don't "need" NaNoWriMo. 

I'm going to write, regardless of what month it is, and I generally write 50, 000 or more words per month. But there is something special about participation, something that pushes me to regard the work differently, at least short term and that shift of perspective can be refreshing and reinvigorating. What it's doing for me this year is keeping my energy focused on my novel, rather than spread between the novel, blogposts, articles, short stories, proposals, promotional work, and other kinds of writing. This month, at least, I'll neglect all the rest of my writing life in favor or writing words on one novel. 

The first time I did NaNoWriMo was 2013. I was working on a historical women's fiction novel, working title Cold Spring. As I remember it, I kept getting bogged down in research details, which made it hard to move the story forward. 

A challenge of writing historical fiction is having enough detail to capture the era believably, but not forget that the thrust of the story is the characters and what happens to them. I actually really enjoy research and it was easy to let all my writing time slip by in research and not actually add anything to the story. 

So NaNoWriMo was good for me in that way, letting me get down the story and trust to the revision process for the details. I often found that the detail I longed to go research didn't matter in the end and all that time would have been wasted. 

The next year, I wrote something I intended to be a Middle Grades novel, Rat Jones and the Lacrosse Zombies. It was a brand new idea, begun on the first day of the challenge. 

I still found that NaNoWriMo was good for keeping me from overthinking, but I'm not pleased with what I ended up with. 

It's the wrong tone for the age group and genre and rewriting it will not be simple, which is why it keeps getting back-burnered even though I really love Rat and want to tell her story. 

I used the challenge in 2015 and 2016 to work on Face the Change, the third of the Menopausal Superhero novels, losing once and winning once, but ending up with a novel that has since been published and received good reviews. So, definitely a win overall!

In 2017, I used to get a chunk of work done on a new novel, Thursday's Children (currently shelved, because I don't have the heart to write dystopian right now). The nice thing about failing NaNoWriMo is that even a writer who doesn't write 50,000 words still wrote words, so they still win. I have some 80,000 words on that project waiting for me when I can find the heart for it again. 

I didn't play along in 2018. But I'm back in 2019, with The Architect and The Heir, a gothic romance. As I write this, I'm seventeen days in, which means that I should have written 28,399 words, to stay "on track." I haven't. I've written 18,204. But they're good words, ones I'll likely keep. The story is finding its footing. It feels good and right and the daily focus is helping me sort out some of the issues and work out the intrigue. 

In past NaNoWriMo outings, I've felt a little like I was tumbling downhill, barely able to keep my feet under me. It's exciting, but it's not sustainable. That's why it's National Novel Writing Month…once a year, not a technique to undertake as the day to day method of operations. At least not for me. A breakneck pace all the time would eventually…well, break my neck. 

But for one month? I can handle being a little breathless for the life it brings to the work. 

1 comment:

  1. That's great that you are so productive in general and get so much done during NaNo month. Even if you aren't making your word count, it may be better to have more solid work this year. Happy Writing!