As the month of NaNoWriMo looms in the near future, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the one time I did it – and won – why I don’t do it every year, and what I’d suggest to those who want to succeed with it.
Here’s the thing: you can NoWri every day. Novel writing need not be packed into a month a year. However, for some of us, the sheer challenge of the thing is a great way to kick start the project at hand into action, or to complete something you started and haven’t been able to finish, or simply as a social event where for a while, writing is socially acceptable and even laudable.
The year that I did NaNo, at the request of my eldest daughter, I was working full time in an office, and I used my lunch break for a lot of the writing. I could fit about a thousand words, fingers flying madly over the keyboard of my decrepit laptop, into that hour. The rest of my two thousand daily word goal was done late at night, when the kids were in their beds. I didn’t stop to edit, or overthink what I was writing, I just wrote.
In the end, I had a manuscript that was longer than anything I’d ever written, and one that was very close to completion. Sure, it’s a YA novel so it didn’t need to be 100K words long, but for me it was enough to call it a novel. That broke me of the habit of saying “I can only write short stuff.”
I can still – and do, on occasion, like the flash fiction piece I put on my blog this week – write the short stuff. But as an independent publisher, the short stuff isn’t where the money is. And this is why you should make every day NoWri day. If you want to be successful in this business, you need to have quantity. Quality comes with time, and practice, and not writing is not practicing.
Personally, I haven’t done a NaNoWriMo since Vulcan’s Kittens simply because I started school the year after. I haven’t had the brainpower to write, and do school, and work, and… all the other stuff that is a vital part of life. Which hasn’t stopped me from writing at other times of the year. If the schedule for NaNo doesn’t work for you, do NOT let it stop you from writing. If all you can manage is a few hundred words a week, keep at it. You’ll get there in time, as the hare said to the tortoise.
For me, right now, fitting a few weeks of writing like a madwoman (current personal best was 10K words in a day. My arms were numb, but it was totally worth it) in between semesters seems to be working best. I simply haven’t time or brainpower to spare from homework in school. I keep thinking that will change, but if anything as I enter my Senior year, it’s worse. Like most of you, I have a family that would like some of my time, too.
I am blessed, however, with a family that (mostly) understands what I’m doing. I had a lovely moment yesterday where my son was telling me that he was reading Vulcan’s Kittens (he wasn’t old enough to read when it came out. Good heavens how time flies!). He wanted to know if I plan a third book in the series, and when I assured him I did, he lit up and told me what he wanted to see in that book. So now I have notes, and my marching orders… Then, he asked me “can you send me that book? The man, the dog, and the spaceship?”
“Sure honey, who wrote that… Oh. You mean you want my book?”
Yes, he did, and I was thrilled, and sorry to have to tell him it’s not finished yet. Maybe I do need to do NaNo this year!
It’s these moments that keep us all writing. Writing sucks, sometimes, and it’s hard, and there are much more important things we could be doing, like washing the houseplants or dusting the bookshelves. Rotating the cat (but not on a spit!) or… But then you take the dog for a long walk, and this character waltzes into your head, sits down, leans forward with that intent look on their face…
“Write me. Write me, or I will haunt your every waking moment and wake you up in the night. Write me…”