Damn, those two weeks went by faster than I expected. Lots to update, but not all at once.
First up, it’s November. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to several hundred thousand people worldwide, it’s NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, the unwieldiest of acronyms. At it’s simple center, it’s a challenge, a dare, to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.
To some people, 50,000 words sounds like a whole hell of a lot of writing. To others, it doesn’t sound like very much at all. It averages out to about 1,667 words every day for the month, which also doesn’t sound like much. The problem comes with the words “every day”. It’s relatively easy to write 1667 words in a day. It’s not too hard to write 5,000 words over three days. But if you don’t feel like it that fourth day, then you suddenly need to write 1731 words a day for the rest of the month. Missed a whole weekend? That’s 1800 words every day for the next 25 days. Miss a second weekend and you need to manage over 1950 words a day. Things can get stressful, and discouraging. That’s where Nano gets difficult, when life starts to get in the way and your word count sags. But that’s also where Nano gets fun, because the forums are alive with other people going through exactly the same thing, for different reasons. Watching people succeed lets you know that this is possible. Watching people fail gives you incentive to do better than they did.
I’m on my fourth try, and I’ve made the 50,000 word target each of the last two years, after failing miserably on my first attempt. What I learned during November of 2008 is that I absolutely cannot write long form without a solid outline. There are people who can throw themselves into page one and follow an unexpectedly winding path to the end of the novel. I am definitely not one of those people, but it was a good thing to learn when it didn’t really matter.
That was a lesson that was harder to learn, that what I was writing didn’t really matter. Every word I put down feels important at the time. It’s hard to write 50,000 words knowing that it will probably need to be heavily revised or thrown out entirely, but that’s what a lot of first drafts are, so it’s good to get used to the idea early on in your writing career that what you’re writing may not, in fact, be a literary masterpiece that will make you a billion dollars, spawn university-level courses on the fine details of your prose, and be considered a classic 400 years from now.
More than anything else, my first Nano gave me a much-needed kick in the ass. I’ve heard lots of people say that they’d like to write a novel. Often people will say “Why don’t you?” and then it gets shrugged off. Nanowrimo not only gives you the “Why don’t you?”, it gives you an appointment to start it and a finish line. Look over here, you’re in lane 7. You’re not going to let all these people beat you, are you? What do you have to lose by just running?
And it’s been a rough summer. I haven’t written much of anything over the last four months, and couldn’t find a way to get back into the groove. Nano gave me a solid excuse to get back into writing, and it’s starting to be fun again. I got a late start because I was so busy making my armour (post with pictures of completed shirt forthcoming) that I didn’t have time to make an outline, and as I said before, I can’t work without one. I spent several days getting my ideas sorted out, and finally got started last Saturday evening, on the 5th, four days (6667 words) behind schedule. I’m currently at 7703 words, which is about 5600 behind target, but it’s a good start and I’m catching up. If I can’t catch up or surpass the daily limit over the next couple of weeks, then all I really need to do is get myself close enough that I can make a crazy push on the 30th and write the last several thousand at a go. I’ve finished before on the 30th by dropping 8,000 words on my novel’s head. I’d rather not be in a position where I have to do that again, so I’m going to try and be good about working on it every day.