Friday, 31 October 2014

National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.
I first learned of NaNoWriMo in the Spring of 2007, three days out from November and with a final exam looming over me. I was excited by the idea of it, caught up in everybody's enthusiasm while they discussed their plots, the events they would be attending, their plans for beating writer's block. I was sorely tempted to participate despite the fact that I was supposed to be studying and didn't have a plot at the ready, but convinced myself that there would always be next year. I only had one more exam for school, and then all the time in the world for my writing. So I said no, turned my back on the challenge for that year, and waited for the next.

And 2008 marked the first year of many. I have participated every year since, and tomorrow I start my seventh NaNoWriMo novel. My seventh! When I first started out, I wondered at how anybody could manage to write 50,000 words in a month. It seemed like such an impossibly daunting task. But now that I have participated (and won) six times, I have found that NaNoWriMo is challenging in ways I didn't expect. 

My first two years - Adalia (2008) and Paranoia (2009) - are a bit of a blur. I can't remember the plots for either of my novels, how long they each ended up being, or even how long it took me to reach 50,000 words. I remember the characters, have a general idea of how the stories went, but... That's it. I remember struggling through my last 10,000 words, hating my novels by the time they were done. But I had completed them, had done my 50,000 words, and at that point it was all that mattered. 

The Story of Us (2010) was a turning point for me. I remember this novel quite clearly - a romance between two best friends, with the added drama of finding out that their families were mafia and their lives were in danger - and I remember hitting its end. I remember sitting there, reading through the novel, and just thinking, "This is crap. I don't ever want to see it again." 

I remember hating that feeling. 

It was at this point that I gave myself a new challenge for NaNoWriMo - to write something that I would be happy with in the end, something that I would look back on and want to rewrite. 

Enter Everwill (2011). At the very beginning of 2011, I started planning a trilogy that followed two nephilim siblings on the run from both angels and scientists. I spent months trying and failing to start this story, and when November rolled around I decided to make it my novel for the month. It was this year that I made my personal speed record (hitting the 50,000 word goal in eight days, and finishing the novel in nine) and also hit my personal goal of writing something that I was actually, genuinely happy with. To the point that I'm still trying to rewrite the novel to this day. 

Seasons (2012) was a new record for me - this time, at 67,000 words, in length. When it was done, I was pleased to find that I was relatively happy with what I'd written again, and I decided that this was to be my new NaNoWriMo challenge. If I wasn't happy with my finished first drafts, I would consider it a fail - and this is why, even though Dead Ringer (2013) surpassed the 50,000 word mark, I don't consider it a win. I do look back on it and see something I can work with, but I do not look back on it fondly. 

This year has been a crazy one for me. In the past two weeks I have changed my novel idea three times - first from a crime novel I call The Trial to a zombie story titled Infected, then from Infected to an alien story I've hardly planned, tentatively named Of a Different Kind.

I still have my same old challenges - hit 50,000 words and write something that I actually like - but this year, and in years to come, I want to step it up a notch. I take the quantity vs. quality thing way too seriously. So I want to slow things down, better focus on the things I'm writing, and write a first draft that I wouldn't be ashamed to show to people. Everything I have posted online so far is a first draft of something, so why should my NaNo novels be something I'm ashamed to show? That is my goal this year. To write something I would gladly post online for my existing readers. 

And in future, as always, my goal is to second draft my novels, and bring them up to publishing standards. 

I have a long journey ahead of me.

2 comments:

  1. My dear, my dear. I am so proud of you. Six nano accomplishments! You've written over 300,000 words and even though you are not happy with all 300,000 that is something to congratulate because those words, your writing, are still helping you become a better writer. You are still honing your writing craft and your story telling skills. Like a runner you are becoming stronger with every step you take. I did camp nano for the first time this year and all I had was a vague plot and even vaguer main characters and a word goal of 15,000 that I didn't even reach but look at you! You not only have novels you've completed but you also have novels you are happy with after completing them ^_^. Good luck with Nano this year (even though you don't need it). I hope you love the results when December arrive.

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    1. The way that you've just worded this - saying that I've written over 300,000 thousand words - really just showed me how amazing the accomplishment is, so I have to thank you for that!

      Congrats on doing Camp NaNo for the first time, too! Even if you didn't reach your goal, you were writing. And in the end, as you said, this is what really counts!

      I'm actually hating my novel right now (I'm rushing through it so I can get back to things that I DO want to write), but at least I'm writing. It's a story that I can come back to later and really work on when I'm in the mood. =)

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