Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Halfway there!

November is one of my favorite months. Not just because it's book-ended with Halloween and Thanksgiving, but because it is National Novel Writing Month (or NanoWriMo...or to the very lazy, like me, just NaNo.) The idea is simple. One month of writing, with a goal of 50,000 words written. It doesn't matter if they're crappy words or if you write the same word 50,000 times. The idea is to keep writing and hopefully get a good portion of your novel done. To go with this there are Municipal Liaisons (ML's) in your area who are planning write-in events, where people show up, have a few snacks and then spend several hours ignoring each other as they furiously type on their laptops. It's like the Olympics for writers.

This year, we had our kick-off on Halloween at midnight. Usually this is a big party, with everyone in costume, with much fun and frosty beverages leading up to the witching hour. At the stroke of 12, we snap open our laptops and start writing to much cheering. But never did the course of true fiction run smooth. This year, the 31st fell on a Tuesday, and the hotel where the event was held neglected to tell us that the entire lobby would be sectioned off for construction and that not only would it be nearly impossible to reach the place where we were writing, but the AC wouldn't be working and it would be nearly Arctic at the hotel bar. So, instead of a gala event with a ton of writers, it was...well, it was six of us, two of whom were obligated by their title of ML to be there, one of whom by title of "husband" was obligated to be there. One of us was medicated to fend off a migraine, another of us was soon to be struck low by g.i. difficulties. By the time midnight rolled around, only four were left, and one of us was desperately drinking hot tea to avoid hypothermia, another was shortly to fall asleep...and I was trying really hard not to smear my black lipstick on all of the cookies I'd been eating to stave off the open breeze coming in through the lobby.

Halloween treats this year were shortbread cookies and rice crispy treats. 

The "bat lips" were the result of a YouTube makeup tutorial gone wrong, but still rather appropriate for a "ghastly" look. 

But I was ready and excited, and as soon as it turned midnight, I typed "Chapter 1" on my word document. What a thrill that is to me. After working for the last 5 years on building an entire world of characters, and writing and rewriting my first novel, doing all of the nitty gritty un-fun "finish this dang thing" work that comes at the end of the novel, nearly abandoning hope as the first two agents I talked to rejected it, rewriting it some more, and now, at last, close to being able to call Novel 1 finished, it was a complete and utter joy to write "Chapter 1" on the screen and contemplate a new story. This Word Witch lasted about 500 words, and then we all slapped our laptops shut and scuttled off to cars with heaters, ready to go home.

NaNoWriMo Oct 31 Survivors!

I am excited about NaNo in part because this is an experiment. For September and October I did not write a single drop of fiction. I only wrote an outline for Novel 2. A really extensive 15-page outline. I forced myself to think through the plot points that I would normally put off until later because who wants to think about the antagonist's motives or how the hero is going to defeat him? But this time I made myself figure out the entire plot ahead of time. The experiment is this: knowing the characters and the world already, with a detailed outline, and the decks cleared to allow for writing time in November, can I write a book in a month? Instead of taking 5 years.

This is what NaNo looks like. A ton of shot of my laptop and coffee and chocolate!

Well, it's Day 8 of NaNo and I'm at 25,300 words. A normal novel is about 90,000 words. I am averaging 4,000 words a day....except for those two days that I made the mistake of going back to edit my work and research 19th century underwear. But if I just write, and don't allow myself to double back and "fix" what I've written, if I just give myself the pure joy of creating, I can happily finish a rough draft of this novel by December 1. Of course, it will then take me a while to polish that rough draft into shape, get feedback from my critique group, and rewrite it into final draft shape. But what if, given that I started the outline in September 2017, I can have this thing fully polished and ready to publish by September 2018?

Why do I care about the timeline so much? The answer is that I did some math. I'm in my mid-40s now. Let's say I am writing for another 30 years. Let's say it takes me 5 years a novel. That's 6 novels in a lifetime. At present, I've already mapped out 5 novels in this fictional world I've created. And there are other worlds I'd like to create, other characters that I want to bring to life. I simply can't afford to spend 5 years on a single book. I have to get my writing process down to a year for a novel...a really good novel, because it goes without saying that I would never knowingly publish something that is crap. So, good writing, a book a year. That's what I'm going for, and NaNo is the fuel to get the rough draft finished. Plus, it's fun. Plus, there are donuts! What's not to love?

If you're interested in NaNoWriMo, you can visit their website here. They're non-profit and funded by donations, and people participate from all over the world. If you're thinking about starting your first novel or you on Novel #21, I encourage you to join the fun.

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