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NaNoWriMo: What a difference a day makes

Right, so November started this week, and with November comes NaNoWriMo. I participated last year and, to my amazement, actually wrote an entire novel (more or less) in a month. I’d spent nearly seven years finishing up my first novel, and it was empowering to realize that if I commit myself to it, I *can* write a lot of content in a relatively short span of time. Not necessarily good content, but hey, I was proud of myself for doing it.

Fast forward. I’ve wasted much of this year worrying about what to write next. After some soul searching I decided not to do a second draft of last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. I may revisit it someday (with a complete rewrite, more than likely), but after the frenzied month I spent writing it and the subsequent few months I spent away from it, I wasn’t feeling inspired to see it through.

I played with some other ideas, going so far as to map one out to a crazy extent before I decided not to pursue it. (I may have outlined that one to death.) So here we are, a year later and I have nothing (fiction-wise) to show for it.

Well… not nothing. I’ve been thinking about the process that led up to my first novel (the one I actually finished). That book started out as a short story I wrote in a crazy all-night burst, the night before it was due, for a college fiction writing class. (What can I say, I’m driven by deadlines!) After it was critiqued I never really revised it, but I always felt I’d go back to it someday. And I did… four years later. It hadn’t been dormant all that time; I’d been thinking about it and coming up with new ideas that ended up fleshing out the 20-page story into a 200+ page novel, but it took me that long just to get started. Then I spent five years tinkering with it before I “finished” it. And considering I basically rewrote the whole thing over the course of the two years after that, it makes me wonder what I was doing all that time leading up to the final rewrite.

Last year I thought how great it would be if I could condense that nine year process into one little month. But I think I underestimated the importance of all that simmering. With last year’s NaNoWriMo, I jumped right into a novel without giving myself time to explore the characters’ backstory and hopes and dreams and figure out what was really important about them. Excuse the corniness, but I didn’t give myself a chance to fall in love with them. And as a result, when the pressure to write about them fell away, I didn’t feel compelled to stick with them. I’m trying to avoid that this year.

So I have an idea. It actually first popped up this spring, and I ignored it for a few months, then really started thinking about it over the summer and into the fall. I’ve been writing little bits here and there but haven’t really made the commitment until now.

My plan for NaNoWriMo this year is to write the 50,000+ words—but not to force myself to write a complete novel from beginning to end, like I did last year. That was a great exercise and I’m glad I did it. But I don’t want to end up feeling the same apathy for these characters and this story, so instead I’m going to take my time and get to know them and, yes, fall in love. That’s the goal at least. I don’t think it’s going to take another nine years to get to know them well enough to tell their story, but I figure I can at least give them a few months to incubate.

Anyway, here we are in Week 1. Monday and Tuesday I was off to a good start. Then I came down with the cold from hell. Luckily it was a quick cold from hell but it was icky while it lasted, and I didn’t write at all for the rest of the week. This morning I was completely intimidated, with barely 4,000 words under my belt and an end-of-day goal of 10,002 staring me down. But I pushed through, writing on and off throughout the day, and am now mostly caught up, and that makes me happy.

The better thing is that this morning when I was still way behind, I was feeling lost and directionless. Then I stoped moping and started writing. And tonight I’m actually excited. I feel like I’m tapping in on that hidden backstory and the subtle character traits that I didn’t give myself time to develop last year, and I’m surprising myself. Who cares if this stuff ends up in the finished draft? I wrote almost 6,000 words today, and I’m pretty damn proud about that.

And now, I have to get to bed and write the last 800 or so words I need to reach the Saturday goal before I turn out the lights. Too bad this 852 word blog entry doesn’t count.

1 Comment

  1. Good luck! I’m trying for the second year in a row to finish a novel (last year I failed due to an army of gallstones invading my personal space). I’ve got it all mapped out (literally, I drew maps), now I’ve just got to write the whole thing. I’m not actually paying attention to word count this time though, I just try to write a little each day (or every other day, depending on how busy I am procrastin… uh… working). I see this year’s NaNoWriMo more as a way to get started, and so far it’s working – I got started! I hope I’ll be able to read your book some day (soon)! :)

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