Friday, December 10, 2010

In the Shadow of NanoWriMo

I've considered participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) many times within the past few years. The "rules" indicate that you shouldn't start NaNoWriMo with a partially started or completed project, but rather with a bare outline or nothing at all. I had been languishing with a novel I started in 1999 and rather than setting it aside and moving on, I kept pushing and pulling it, trying to make it "work". Because I'm a rule follower, I kept dismissing NaNo until "next year."

2010 was different. I had indeed set my languishing project aside, and worse, since my husband's cancer diagnosis, subsequent surgery and treatment, I hadn't been writing much at all. I couldn't get my arms around any kind of project--which is pretty understandable. A writer friend of mine mentioned in passing that she had begun writing a young adult paranormal book as an escape from her medical school studies. I later read the work and I found it astoundingly good! Meanwhile I was still trying to figure out something to write about, but life and work took my attention and I settled for writing in my journal.

Her words kept echoing in my head as I contemplated some ideas, and I was intrigued by the genre she was pursuing, yet the ideas didn't ignite. As my husband began chemotherapy I decided NaNoWriMo was the perfect productive distraction to occupy my mind and give me an escape of my own. I had planned on writing a novel based on a TV pilot I'd written for Scriptapalooza TV a couple of years prior, but as the November 1 start date loomed closer, the "rule follower" in me changed my mind and began with absolutely no concept all. The muse kicked in and I just started writing scene by scene rather than thinking about the project as a whole. The idea of writing just for fun--rather than for a result--sounded wonderful. And it was! It reminded me it was the very reason I started writing in the first place back when I was thirteen.

In addition to a brand new idea, I decided to add some challenge to the fun in order to explore myself as a writer. Most of my previous works had all been told in first person. It's a voice and point of view that is easy for me and I think I'm pretty decent at. So I decided

  • to write in third person
  • to not write chronologically, but rather jump around, writing scenes that were interesting to me (the point being to end up with no scenes that are boring or pointless)
  • Don't title it until after the first draft is done!
  • to not worry what the book was about (in true NaNo fashion)
  • to tell people I was doing it--partly to overcome my "writing is private" sensibility and partly to help hold me accountable for finishing
November 30 came and went without yours truly completing the 50k word goal; rather it left me shrugging, scratching my head, and ultimately beating myself up for not making it more of a priority and eking out time each and every day no matter what was going on and no matter how many hours of sleep it deprived me of. I ended November at the halfway point. I'm still committed to the novel I started and not doing anything that would distract me from it like starting a blog or anything. Oh, wait. Anyway, with the holidays (holidays) approaching and bringing in-laws with them, I don't see how I can complete it by end of December, but at least I'm not making up excuses are anything. These excuses are real!

I am working to complete my first draft of "NaNoWriMo Novel" a title I'm happy with for now at steady pace of as many as 1k words per day (or night) as possible. I think most writers struggle once they're so far in they can't see the way back or the way forward, but it's still exciting to me when I sit down, clear my mind of daily clutter, and try to focus, mostly because of the rules I established above. Even though I didn't "win" NaNoWriMo, the reminder of writing for fun was prize enough.

Writers are writers because they write, right?

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