I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2002, and it kind of amazes me that every year I still learn something new about myself and my writing and what I’m capable of.
The comparison to NaNoWriMo as a marathon is apt, but for me mostly because it requires training and a warm-up. I made a resolution at the beginning of 2008 to make the time to write a little every day, which is something I’ve stuck with for the most part. It’s tough; I don’t know that I realized what I’d have to sacrifice to make that work. Some things were easy, like watching fewer hours of television. Some things are harder, like spending less time on my other hobbies, or making time to write when I don’t feel up to it, or even just forcing myself to trudge over to my favorite neighborhood cafe on a Sunday when I’d really rather stay in bed and watch TV.
Which is to say that it got to the point where writing 50,000 words in a month is still a challenge, but an easily overcome one, because I was already in the habit of writing every day. The last two years, I’ve written in excess of 50,000 words by a significant margin during November. So what’s the challenge?
I’m terrible at finishing things. I tend to lose focus on projects easily. NaNoWriMo at least forces me to focus on one project for a whole month, and to crank out lots of raw material. This year’s is rough, there are things about it I already want to change, but I like the idea and I want to keep going with it.
I was thinking the other day about some writing advice I read. I don’t remember the context, but I think it was a letter to an advice column, wherein a woman wrote that she wanted to be a writer, but by the time she went to and came home from work, fed the dog, fed her husband, folded her laundry, yadda yadda, she found that she had maybe an hour tops to write before she fell asleep on her keyboard. This one hour, she said, was not enough, because about half of it was used trying to get her bearings and remember what she wanted to write about.
Around the same time I read about that, I read about a writer who said she did all her best thinking while out walking her dog. This is something I was already doing. Well, not with a dog, but I also do my best thinking while walking, and I walk a lot during the course of a normal day. To and from work, plus usually I take a walk at lunch time to clear my head. I also spend a lot of time when I’m not working thinking about my stories, so when I sit down write at night, I’m usually mostly ready to go. I’ve got scenes worked out in my head, or bits of dialogue, or new characters or whatever, and then I just… type it.
So the NaNo novel is kind of this all-consuming thing now. I spent a good fifteen minutes last night at a bar talking to another participant about my story. (I said, “I think I’ve hit a wall,” and she said, “Tell me what the problem is,” and we brainstormed together. I think it’s crazy that my current work-in-progress is conversation fodder in a bar. But I love it.)
Current word count: 16,569.