Why I wrote 50,000 words this month, and why nobody gets to read any of them,
and what I’m going to do, now that it’s over.
I’ve done a NaNoWriMo project almost every year since 2008.
If you've never NaNo'd or had a NaNo in the family, lemme s'plain: the challenge is to write the first draft of your book in a month.
50,000 words, 30 days.
You don't have time to edit or refine or fix.
The only way out is THROUGH.
That first year, I had a wonderful NaNo experience, and wrote a story that delights me still.
The second year didn’t go so well. I wasn’t very excited about my premise, and my characters were too much like the people I spend my days with for me to want to go home at night and spend an additional two hours with them in my head.
Plus, the setting was pretty boring.
The best thing about the entire month of writing that year was the last day, when I loaded all my characters into a Jeep and “drove” the fictional vehicle off a cliff, killing them all at once. I registered my 50,000 word triumph at the NaNoWriMo website, collected my Finisher’s Badge and then deleted the entire file. There was nothing in the story that I recall except that final scene, and nothing in it that I want to retain for future use.
One year I wrote a series of short non-fiction articles instead of a novel. Most readers here have heard more about that year than any of my other NaNo projects, because that set of articles became the rough draft of Endurance 101.
I wrote my other non-fiction book the same way.
One year, I started a bunch of short stories about a semi-fictional town here in the Swampland, and about the quirky people who live in the town. Many of the “Skookum” stories were junk, as most NaNo stuff is.
But a few of those stories were not junk, and I still sometimes write Skookum stories; when I see something that inspires me in my real life, it often turns into a Skookum story at some later date. There are a few Skookum characters that may even be real people, although I’m sure that I invented them all; for example, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to meet Lulu Rubidoux walking out of my local hardware store or feed store.
(You can do a keyword search for "Lulu" to find her stories, or "Skookum" to find all of the Swampland stories)
The Skookum stories might be a book some day. Not this year. But, someday?
This year, I thought I might spend some time writing and some time editing, but it turned out that what I needed to do most was to write.
The funny thing about this year’s NaNo project is that it’s awful.
It’s as bad as the year I drove everybody off the cliff. It might even be worse than that (and yes, I deleted the file as soon as the numbers got registered and I collected my badge).
But here’s the difference: this year, for the first time, writing was really hard.
I was fighting constantly against the even-shorter-than-usual attention span I’ve had since my surgery last spring.
My attention span is getting better—and NaNo was a way to not only prove that it’s getting longer, but a way to push myself, by making myself finish something that my brain was really not sold on finishing.
“I can do something better with this time!” I found myself thinking throughout the month of November, and I'd fling myself away the computer.
But really, aside from riding my horse, I didn’t do anything better with the time.
So, I’d nail my butt to the chair again and force myself to write for an hour and then another hour until I’d got my word count back up.
And now I’ve done it: I’ve spent an entire month writing.
I’ve composed 50,765 words (as of this sentence) during the month of November. They are not good words. They will not be smoothed and edited into good words. That turned out not to be the goal of NaNo for me this year.
The goal of NaNo for me, apparently, was to get my brain and my butt back on track to be a writer again.
And, as of this sentence, I’ve composed 50,835 words this month. It’s amazing what can be done, with a little incentive (I’ve promised myself a piece of pie when I finish this page!) and a ton of determination.
Next month I am actually going to edit. In fact, I’ll be editing my very first NaNoWriMo project, the one from 2008. It’s still a fun story, about a 100-mile endurance ride open only to teen riders…and the completion prize is a wish.
It’s got unicorns, and pixies…and a dragon! And a little bit of romance. I think you’re going to like that story.
And maybe next year, I’ll write another good one. I’m kinda looking forward to it.
Because you know, as of this sentence, I’ve composed 50,952 words.
And I’ve earned myself a big piece of pie for doing this hard thing.
And that, my dears, is a Good Thing.