I emerged from November blinking screen-weary eyes and massaging sore wrists, but with the following nifty little notice on my computer screen to tell me that it was all worthwhile:
51,703 words- You won!
Yes! I am officially a NaNoWriMo winner!
If you’re not familiar with the acronym, “NaNoWriMo” stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, participating writers devote themselves to “30 days and nights of literary abandon,” attempting to complete a 50,000 word novel.
“What do you win?” asked one of my students when I told them that I was participating.
“Well, you finish a 50,000 word novel. So you win…bragging rights?”
“Oh…” They looked less than impressed.
I’ll admit, I had moments during the swift November days when I wondered if their skepticism was deserved.
Were the hours I spent hunched over my laptop really worthwhile?
Would the good of the experience outweigh the bad?
I’ve had the idea for my second World War 2 era historical fiction book rattling around in my head for over a year. I knew the characters, the setting, the main events up to the midpoint, even the resolution.
However, apart from a few scenes I sketched out in an old notebook, the story hadn’t made it into written form.
I wanted to write it, but could barely manage to eke out enough time to keep moving the first book toward release and keep this blog running. At the end of the day, I just didn’t have creative energy left to dive into another story.
NaNoWriMo gave me the proverbial kick in the pants that I needed to let the other projects go, focus on my new story, and get that first draft written!
While NaNoWriMo gave me the push to focus on writing the story, it didn’t magically give me the time to do so.
I’m still playing catch-up on housework, blogging, and all of the other jobs that were pushed back as I wrote.
Even while it’s driving me a little crazy, this “bad” effect has been a good reality check. It reminded me that maybe I can’t manage writing a new novel on top of parenting, teaching, blogging, music directing, editing an old novel for release, beta reading for friends, and keeping our house livable.
When I figure out just to comfortably balance all of this, I’ll let you know!
My first book has been through hours of editing. By this point, most of the scenes are streamlined, the descriptions crafted to show just what I want, and the dialogue polished.
It’s not perfect, nor do I imagine it ever will be, but it’s getting close to the point where I can release it into the world and honestly say that it’s the very best work I can do.
My NaNoNovel, right now, is best suited for kindling.
There are plot holes you could sail an LST through.
I wish I could apologize to my characters for the awful dialogue.
And the history research? I’m sure that about a third of it is accurate. Maybe. But I’m still going to double-check.
Pushing myself to finish the story in a month meant that I had no time for editing, for research, or for any manner of fine tuning. The result’s no surprise- an ugly, ugly first draft.
This brings us back to the question: Was participating in NaNoWriMo and subjecting myself to the pressure worth it?
Yes…I think it was.
Ugly as it is, I’ll admit that this story has me excited.
The characters still need refining, but now that they’ve had 50,000+ words to interact, I have a better idea of who they are, what they want, and what they’re going to do about it.
I have tons of historical and geographical research to do, (by the way, if anyone has any good book recommendations on the Anzio beach head and 1940’s Italian geography, I’ll take ’em!) but now that I have a draft in hand, I know what I don’t know- I know what questions I need to ask.
Rushing through without editing was painful, but if I waited to find time to craft my words perfectly, odds are I wouldn’t have found it- at least not in this decade.
All in all, when next November rolls around I’ll have to consider whether it’s the right time to dive into the new new idea that I haven’t had time to set to paper- set in the Pacific Theater with a bit of cloak and dagger action…
What have you been up to while I’ve been furiously typing? Writers, what have you found that motivates you to get those words out of your heads and onto paper?
Many thanks for visiting!