26 October 2013

My first NaNoWriMo!

Image (c) NaNoWriMo.org
I've known about NaNoWriMo for a very long time, but never had the interest (or nerve!) to even consider participating until now.

For those who haven't heard of the fun, NaNoWriMo refers to November as the National Novel Writing Month,  in which ANYONE and EVERYONE is encouraged to fulfill the lifelong dream of writing a novel...

...in 30 days. 

Since a novel's word count can vary depending on the genre and market requirements, NaNoWriMo has helpfully dictated that the word count requirement is 50,000 words in order to win the event.

Until I enrolled in graduate school, those kind of numbers terrified me. As a playwright, I never thought in word counts, but page counts, and my maximum page count was just above 90 pages to equal a show that clocked in at just over an hour and a half. So a number like 50,000 seemed completely unfathomable to me.

My degree requirement--the completion of a market-ready novel--has changed my perception of the numbers used in fiction. My MFA required me to write a minimum of 80,000 words. My final draft (in Times New Roman, double-spaced, 12-point font) was just over 84,400 words and totaled 248 pages.

After producing something of that nature, 50,000 words (or, 145 pages) seems significantly smaller and more reasonable. Thus I've decided to give NaNoWriMo a shot for the first time in my life, knowing that I've already written a book that beats the 50,000 word count.


I have to take into consideration that I had a whopping three years to produce my thesis novel. Much of that consisted of many false starts and unnecessary drafts, as well as "perfectionism" revisions, as I like to call them, where I just hacked away at the manuscript for too long instead of moving forward to the next important thing.

So the challenge of this year's NaNoWriMo is not producing the word count, but being able to LET GO in order to meet the 30-day deadline. And letting go, for a perfectionist like me, will not be easy. I'm used to fixing problems and rereading my work while I'm writing, which is a big time-suck and makes hitting deadlines far more difficult. For some reason I've always thought that if I didn't fix a mistake as soon as I caught it, I'd forget about it and the world would somehow collapse on itself.

The little voice of perfectionism can be pretty annoying!
Image (c) Graphic Stock.
Which is really silly, because the joy of writing is the joy of seeing your words on paper or on the screen right in front of you. So...a mistake that was there before will still be there, waiting happily for you to correct it later. Leaving mistakes (and drafts) alone will likely be my major challenge and what will make-or-break my NaNoWriMo experience.

As for my NaNoWriMo project, it's going to be my companion novel to The Name and the Key. I wrote the first chapter of The Step and the Walk almost one year ago and never came back to the book because I had The Name and the Key to finish for school. The Step and the Walk has been waiting patiently for me to finish it. Now I'm done with school, and I'm going to use NaNoWriMo to help me get back into the book again, and with a clear goal and timeline in mind, the only thing to hold me back from making it is my inability to let a rough draft be a rough draft.

A book in 30 days is supposed to be a huge, crazy mess. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to complete a novel in 30 days. To start at Once Upon A Time on November 1st and finish with The End on November 30th.  That's it. It shouldn't be any more complicated than that.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Do you have any advice to share?

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