Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009: the last word

nanowrimo_bannerWell, it’s over. National Novel Writing Month for 2009 is now history. As of midnight the novels stopped being uploaded to the verification site. The counters stopped counting. The writers who had not yet crashed from exhaustion made one last save of their precious baby projects and turned off their computers or put away their pens and stowed their notebooks in a fire safe. The last light was turned out.

The first thing that hits you is “it’s so quiet.” Not just the absence of machine humming and keyboard clacking, but the mind is quiet for the first time in more than thirty days because it doesn’t have to figure out how to get tomorrow’s word goal.

The second thing that hits you is “wow that was fast;” and it was. There’s a saying that “time flies when you’re having fun” so as fast as November just flew by we should have had a ball, right? Well, most of us did.

I know my group of online writing buddies had a blast. This was our core group’s third year together having met serendipitously in a NaNo forum in 2007. We not only wrote a combined total of 1,004,504 words in our novels, but we wrote almost 1500 forum posts on our three threads as well. We were laughing so loud that buddies from other threads started crashing; hey, White House dinner parties have got nothing on us. Of course most soon discovered they were too many inside jokes behind and left but some read the archives, became converts, and stayed.

The thing that hits you next is that you’re starving and exhausted. It takes a few days to reorient to life without NaNo. Once the sleep and food issues are taken care of there is suddenly time for a movie, or net surfing; and of course the coming holidays and the shopping season vie to fill up all that spare time that is weighing heavily on your hands.

My NaNo experience this year was far more positive than last year. I had too much happening behind the scenes last year to really stay focused on it. Also last year I was working on a very difficult period-specific piece that as it progressed I came to realize I had far too little research and background to create. This year I went back to my 2007 start of three characters, a place, and something that happened. This works much better for me when I need to keep moving forward. A generic draft can always be remodeled in period-specific details in rewrite later.

This year I did not have internet access at home. This was both a point of irritation and a blessing. The blessing was that I did not have access to the distraction of the around the clock forum chatter. When I was home I could write until my hands dropped off for the day. The irritation was that I had to go to the library or to my family’s to check-in with the group and regional updates, and update my word counts. Sometimes the NaNo servers are busy during business hours so it was a challenge to wade through time-outs to get in.

My manuscript totaled 55025 words. It has 21 chapters, a prologue and an afterword. It is not even close to being a book at this point. It actually is not really a decent workable draft. This year’s version is not at all linear with time and place jumping in every other section. But the point of NaNoWriMo is not an instantly publishable book. The point is to stop saying “some day I’m going to write a book;” and actually sit down and write. Decide later if it’s a publishable idea to rewrite and refine, but sit down now and write it down before you forget.

So that’s what I did. I took three characters, placed them somewhere, and had something happen where one of them did it to one of the others, and the third knew about it. From that humble beginning grew more than 50K words and 166 double-spaced pages. Really anybody could do that even if not in 30 days. But writing a book as an amateur isn’t limited to NaNoWriMo. If someone wrote a page a day for 166 days, they would achieve something similar and it would only require about 30 minutes of commitment per day.

So who thinks they’d like to try writing a novel? What would you write about?

1 comment:

chelle said...

I have always wanted to write. But I so do not have the soul of a writer. I cannot believe in myself enough to take that step.

Instead I am content (at least for the moment) to create in other ways.