Every year around this time I get a little antsy. I know I need to start planning and outlining and thinking and generally getting up off my creative duff so I won’t mentally collapse come November 1. Or, you know, lose my fucking mind and start trying to alphabetize the cat and brush the childling’s book collection. This is time of year when I get to scratch ‘one-day novelist’ off my to-do list and replace it with ‘right-now novelist’.
November is National Novel Writing Month, and it like my friend The Barenaked Critic, it’s my favorite time of the year.
With the exception of 2007, I have attempted NaNoWriMo every year since 2006. Cumulatively in those months, I’ve written close to 150,000 words of original fiction that will never, ever, ever see the light of day. Probably. Unless I die famous or something.
It’s an exercise in insanity. The goal is 50,000 words in thirty days or 1667 words per day. To those unfamiliar with the fiction writing process, that probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Banging out 1700 words of completely unpolished prose whilst sipping a latte at Starbucks probably sounds awesome and a wee bit romantic. Doable, even.
And it is those things. But it can also be soul-crushing.
I’m not one of those writers who can sit down a few months beforehand and outline every single character and plot point that I intend to write during November. For me, that’s a little like running three quarters of a 5K race then doubling back to do it all over again. I like the spontaneity of the writing process and the quasi-orgasmic feeling I get when a tricky problem unsnarls itself at my fingertips. I’m more of a ‘I have a vague story concept and a fucking awesome opening sentence so let’s go from there’ kind of writer.
Therein lies the problem. I tend to run out of steam around 15,000 words and story at around 20,000. That’s when the rose-colored glasses come off and reality sets in. In between playing arbiter between man and beast (YOU CANNOT POKE THE CAT’S EYEBALLS WITH THAT STICK) and keeping our home just clean enough to avoid colonization by various vermin, I have to find time to play at being a real adult by securing gainful employment. So, yeah. Not as easy as it sounds.
I’ve ‘won’ this contest between my brain and my willpower exactly twice. The other three years ranged from close brush with success to miserable failure. And yet, I keep trying. Last year I bolted out of the gate with healthy 4.300 words in the first day alone, but finished the month at less than 15,000 words total. Granted, back then I was new to blogging and writing at least 10 articles a week for Charm, all while going to school full time and trying to leash train Boo. (Remember?)
This year is going to be different. Maybe. Hopefully. For the first time, I don’t have an original concept to flesh-out. Instead, I’m going to revisit my project from 2009. I reread it this summer and was pleasantly surprised by how, um, not terrible it was. I’ll probably rewrite the beginning to get reacquainted with my characters and then skip to where I left the story hanging where I abandoned it on December 1 of that year.
So if I haven’t managed to scare you off at this point and even remotely intrigued by all this, check out the official NaNoWriMo homepage.
Join me, won’t you?