How I do NaNoWriMo: One woman’s reflection of the process.

This morning, I was like, hey! When is National Novel READING Month, but I was informed by my kids that NaNoReMO is a year long affair. However, NationalToday.com states that in 2003, the National Book Foundation recognized October as National Book Month. We missed it this year, readers. Mark your calendars though, because we will be doing it to the extreme next year!

We are on day seven of celebrating the month designated in the writing world as National Novel Writing Month.

I wanted to address three things that my excitement in the previous post didn’t allow.

  1. I am not a National Novel Writing Month Master. In the past, I avoided it because I was not in a position to put myself into a 50k surplus of words. The first time that I entered NaNoWriMo was last year, and I was successful only because I trained.

I have spent years writing, building my literary muscles, and learning strategies that have made me relatively successful in meeting goals that I set in place. I also have a work environment that promotes writing, and I have amazing coworkers and mentors who are continually checking in on me. I have a relaxed home life with no expectations that consume all of my time. I am one of the blessed.

I also have a kickass kitty editor:

2. I was asked the other day, if your main objective is to just get 50,000 words in a month, aren’t they going to be really crappy? For example, you could just blather on about the blue sky, or well maybe it was more gray but at either rate something that made your character think it was about too to rain, which thus altered their mood and made the whole day seem pretty blahworthy? <~ in other words, wouldn’t you just be putting words on a page, and not really have accomplished much if you’re going to revise them out?

I agree that sounds like a waste, and I’m not going to claim that people don’t do that. However, I would say to give me more credit than that. I am as equally likely to put an excess amount of words into my drafts even when I’m not tracking them, not because I’m a bad writer, but because I know that my main goal in creating a draft is getting words on a page. My focus is on my ideas, or what I’m visualizing, which can change as I gain more clarity through the act of writing. I embrace the sloppiness and redundancy of my drafts no matter what time of year.

Despite my bravado in the previous paragraph, I was curious, so I looked back at a rough draft of a piece that I had started in September. It was a short story, still kind of crappy and needing a lot of revision. In this piece, I did what I’d like to call a very skeletal telling of the situation. The plot was moving on, but there was no real description of anything. There was also a lot of dialogue that felt awkward (Do people still say Greetings?). Then, I looked at what I had written on the first day of Nano. My first day of NaNo work was superior to the short story. But it wasn’t because I was focused on getting words out and spending more of my time writing, I credit the fact that I did more prep work for my NaNo project. For the NaNo project, I had spent October detailing things so I had a clearer picture, and because I had a clearer picture, it was easier to bring the words out. I don’t really know the characters in my September short story yet, so sometimes they became stiff as I was writing about them. As such, I would say that NaNo is not affecting my ability to write efficiently, plotting is. And it’s not to say that my September piece won’t eventually be on the same level, it just means I took a different approach to get there.

3. My biggest secret to the NaNoWriMo experience is that I don’t write all day, nor do I write in large spans of time. Never have, even as an academic writer, and to me, an hour is too long. During NaNo, there has not been a day so far that I haven’t been able to sit down and do some level of ninja writing sprints. In these sprints, I don’t look at 50k, I look at 500 words. I’m just going to commit to sitting wherever I am at, watching my characters, and seeing how they interact with each other… for 500 words. Sometimes it takes ten minutes, others 20-40 minutes, but after that, I am off to do something else.

I don’t make it a habit to be consumed with writing so that I become burned out. You will never catch me trying to sit down for more than 40 minutes to write, and this is a model that I celebrate throughout the year. The only thing that has changed during NaNo is how many times that will I sit down and sprint throughout the day. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t go over 500 words; I have on several occasions, if I am in the zone. I just don’t expect it.

I also don’t do any writing after 7 p.m. unless I am at work on Thursdays.  I embrace the me time during these hours, but again, I have a schedule and support network that allows me to do this. Not everyone has that luxury.

I am really curious to see what every one else’s tricks to NaNoWriMo are. What tricks do you find successful that I can add to my toolbox?

Or what are your reasons for not attempting NaNo? It’s not for every writer, and these reasons are just valuable.