I signed up for NaNoWriMo this fall. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, it stands for “National Novel Writing Month,” held every November, in which participants pledge to write a novel in 30 days – or at least 50,000 words of said novel.
I’d signed up once before years ago, apparently, which I rediscovered while trying to create my account on NaNoWriMo.org. Oops. Guess I didn’t “win” that year. I don’t even remember what, if anything, I was writing at the time.
But this time I was dedicated. I’ve been futzing around with my first novel, A Man of Character, doing edits, adding scenes, and soliciting feedback. That’s all good – although I still need to polish it, write a synopsis, write a query letter, and actually work toward getting the thing published in some form or another, whether traditionally (as I hope) or publishing it myself (if my ‘nobody loves me every agent hates me guess I’ll go eat worms’ fears come true).
Meanwhile, I’ve had book 2, A Matter of Time, on the back burner. I wrote a bit of it last spring, around 16,000 words, and then just… stopped. I felt as if I ought to turn my attention back to the first book – why write a second book when the first one wasn’t “done” yet? Plus life has a funny way of getting in my way, especially since I seek out so many ways to let it. Committing to NaNo was a way to combat that, to say, “I miss the creative experience and I’m going to go back to it,” in spite of all the other things I can and should be doing.
Of course, committing to NaNo and then taking off for London for the 1st week of November (and not writing a thing) was, in hindsight, perhaps not the best way to launch my writing adventures, with the exception of the fact that this second book is set in Regency England. Having spent a few days in London now, seeking out Regency-era sights and sites, I feel I have at least a slight, small taste of the place, which can only help as I write about it.
In any case, it’s been a mad dash. There’ve been writing sprints, slow-dragging-my-fingers moments, one very fun write-in with my local online writing group, the Shenandoah Valley Writers, and much eye rolling and hair wrangling as I realize just what a mess I’m producing. My characters haven’t stayed true to outline. I’m rambling all over the place, bringing in unexpected people and places while also forgetting to weave in key sub-plots.
Fellow writers assure me that this is what NaNoWriMo is all about – the process, the discipline, the act of writing a whole bunch in a short time. There’s December, they’ve reminded me, to sort it all out, to look back and laugh, to start killing my darlings – so many of my darlings, I’m guessing. For now it’s write, write, write. Keep going. Plow forward. Ignore the plot holes. Ignore the overuse of adverbs. Ignore the fact that your characters are probably inconsistent and definitely have a habit of repeating themselves. It’s all good. Just write. Write. Write.
And guess what? I’ve almost made it. I’ve added 38.5K words to this manuscript. I’ve only 11.5K more to go to reach the elusive NaNo goal, to make it to the end. Maybe not the end of the novel itself – I’ve got a lot of threads to tie up, more crazy events to add, a daunting amount of editing to do. But I’m good with that.
Because I haven’t been good with goal-setting. No, let me amend that. I’m GREAT with the goal-SETTING; I suck at goal follow-through. So when I type that 50,000th word, you can bet I’ll be celebrating, no matter where the novel itself actually stands and no matter how much work it will require to start resembling anything of which I might be proud. Because I will have done it. I will have met that goal. And I will be proud of THAT.
As an escapist, I much prefer playing and day-dreaming. But the hours I spend on Facebook and Twitter, while satisfying my social needs, will, of course, never lead to writerly success. They’re time sucks. I do think there’s a place for them, but I need to realize I am my own biggest obstacle in terms of pursuing this dream. Not other writers. Not agents. Not editors. Not publishing houses. I. I am my own biggest obstacle.
In this month of gratitude and thankfulness, I am sending a big thank you to the creators of NaNoWriMo, for realizing how many of us authors need a good swift kick in the keyboard to actually write anything. Many of us spend lots of time plotting, dreaming, and angsting about the books we want to write, and far too little time actually writing. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten. If there’s anything I’ve learned as I’ve embarked on this writing adventure, it’s that like with many things, the difference between an amateur writer and a professional one comes down to two things: hard work and perseverance.
I’d better get back to it.