Let’s Be Authors – NaNoWriMo Explained

My current view

I know. I should be writing right now, with this being November, but I’m counting this in my word count. 😉

EVERYONE is doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, and it is thrilling. I think it runs in seasons, you know, like some years Halloween is freaking awesome and others you just aren’t feeling it. It’s the same with NaNoWriMo, some years it just seems like a hassle, but THIS year everyone is feeling it. I am feeling it and participating, as I have in previous years, with a new project and everything. My author profile explains my wishy-washy history with NaNoWriMo. I should have earned a badge for Quitter several times. But it’s been really fun to explore something completely new from what I usually write. NaNo is giving me that opportunity.

I’m writing this as a “Let’s Be Authors” post, because I am going to lay out some honesty about this yearly tradition that I find funny.

Anyone Can Write…Right?

I have been caught saying that all I did was finish a novel. But, you know, finishing is a BIG part of it. I didn’t go over the first five chapters again and again like we all have done, however, it did take me more than a month to do. (Try a few years.) NaNo gives newbies a chance to finally finish that novel, without looking back at what they’ve written. Just move on and get that damn novel out of their head and onto paper.

This year I’m not rereading what I wrote. The whole point is to spill out the bare bones of the story. For me, it’s nearly like outlining. I’m a discovery writer, but with direction. Maybe that makes me a hybrid, I don’t know. But the point is, I need to know the ending of the story in order to understand what I need to fix and that is what I try to do.

NaNo is an exercise in discipline and crunching for a deadline. But it also allows you to write crap. NONE of these novels are publish ready. Everything I’m writing right now is seriously… crap. Crap. Crap. CRAP. NaNo can get creativity flowing, and that is truly awesome, but nothing will ever be ready on December 1st.

Here’s the brightside: all three of my previous NaNos are now published, but I NEVER, that’s right, I have never won NaNoWriMo. Winning means you’ve achieved 50K words. The most I have written in one year is 23K and I feel that was pretty good. That novel turned into a 100K word number three capstone in my series, which took me two years to complete (and just won the LUW Silver Quill Award). So, yes, NaNo had a place, to get me motivated and writing, but it was never something I was proud of showing anyone. Not until it was ready.

An Exercise in Discipline

And really, I’m the worst at discipline. I do not like deadlines. I cave if there is chocolate around. I love to watch Jeopardy. And will accept any distraction when it comes to NaNo. Because, honestly, who cares? There is no one really pressuring you to finish. There is not a gun to your head. There is not a damsel tied to the train tracks. It’s only you (and your NaNo buddies) that care about this.

So, why do it?

It’s fun to say that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and people either say, what’s that? Or they say Nano-why-what? And a quick explanation makes them think you are crazy. But hammering out 50K in a month is not going to go on a resume. It’s impressive to the art community, and maybe that is all you need, but what is your real reason for doing it.

For me, the story needs to be my motivation. It always is. If I’m passionate about what I’m creating I’ll reach my goal, because it’s fun. F. U. N. There is always this moment I hit when writing that I NEED to know what happens next. And I love that moment, I’m swept away by it – where my fingers are flying and I just do not want to stop writing… and it’s really late at night, and I have to get my daughter up for school at 6, but I just do not want to stop, and I haven’t eaten and my tummy is so mad, and I snack on pistachios and then I’m fine. Does this sound familiar? You know this moment. Reaching THIS moment in NaNo makes or breaks me. If I don’t reach this moment, I’m very half-assed about the whole event. My goal is to get to that moment in my writing. If I can, NaNo is way more fun.

The Popularity Contest

Here is where I fail when it comes to NaNo. Online, yes, it is a great environment, I have lots of buddies. And you can see what your buddies are up to in word count. But I look at all the badges of what people have earned or what their word count is, and I start to worry.

There are badges for EVERYTHING! Some you earn just for creating a profile, some for logging in your process, but some you can achieve by being yourself. Just by drinking jugs of coffee you can earn a badge. Writing in a bathroom stall…  YEP! You got a badge! I’m totally going to do this one. It’s fun, but also, distracting for the serious WriMo.

I look at the badges of my buddies and it makes me worry that I am NOT drinking enough caffeine, or I am admitting that I write in the bathroom stall. I am definitely not the most popular girl on the site. I don’t have the flare, I guess.

But what makes you the most popular, the most envied of all your buddies, is your word count. Word count is EVERYTHING! Word count makes you king! And everyone is watching it. You can easily adjust your word count at the top. I usually keep the site up on a tab and add my score when I’m about to shut my computer. Why, this blog post is 1476 words and I’m counting it in my word count tonight. 😉

But let me ask you this? By a raise of hands, who fudges on the numbers? Come on. I know you do too. This should feel like cheating at Solitaire, because no one will know the truth but you. But your number is what makes other people crazy jealous of your mad typing skills. It’s good, but it really is bad of you. Shame shame…

The honesty of the project benefits you. It’s our exercise is discipline, and yet we are failing because of the natural jealousy that occurs when we value other peoples’ talents. It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry about what others are doing,” but it’s impossible to not. If the numbers mean anything to you, just be honest. It’s the best way to do NaNo. At the end of November, no one will really care at all. As I stated, I never finished, but all of my projects are published, and THAT, my friends is the goal, really.

A Month of Hell

I can always tell a WriMo by the state of their house, the condition of the laundry piling, the quick microwavables in the freezer, the stack of empty Dr. Pepper cans, the scribbled on trash heap next to the computer, the noise-canceling headphones in the jack, the crowded coffee houses, and the deep bags under each eye.

Why do we torture ourselves like this? We can naturally write every day and achieve the same goal. But why November? Why? When there is turkey that needs to be sliced, and family, and shopping, and plays, and everything else that comes in November. Why do we torture ourselves like this?

Because, NaNoWriMo is an experience. That’s why.

It really is something you can commemorate with others. I have twitter followers that are doing NaNo, and it feels like we are fighting the same war together. We are all climbing Everest, and it makes us comrades together. Every crappy word that bleeds out is stained by the experience. Every treasured Write-in is shared in memory. Every active-brain late night adds to one more badge, not just the ones earned online, but the ones you feel when achieving something incredible.

I know. I’ve yet to WIN, but I try, as WriMos do, to be part of that small percentage that says they finished a novel. And if you don’t, just fudge the numbers until you feel better. 🙂

That is the joy, and hell, that is NaNoWriMo. It’s silly, but it has its place.

And now I’m adding this blog to my total. Because, I need to be honest… right?

 

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