I did NaNoWriMo* once. It wasn’t much fun.
(* National Novel Writing Month is where several hundred thousand people sit down to cram 50,000 words into a month’s time).
For me the problem is that NaNoWeiMofeels feels more like a carnival than a practice, more a flash of frivolity than going to a place of any great joy. My issue is the number 50,000. As in, you “win” NaNoWriMo if you create 50,000 words in the month.
I’m sure it’s just me. Others like it just fine.
But this goal ruins the fun for me. The raw word count goal to “win” just sticks in my craw and, honestly, makes me want to puke.
It’s not that I can’t do 50,000 words. Not at all. 50,000 words in a month is actually not hard. I was doing that without problem even back when I was working a 50-70 hour a week corporate job. Heck, my friend Lisa Silverthorne and I were at one time semi-famous for doing public “Novel Dares” in which we wrote novels in a month—a riff off the old Kris and Dean “Dare to be Bad” thing, and posted about them daily on our blogs. Those were a total blast.
You see the difference, right?
50,000 words vs. “a novel?”
I mean no disrespect to all the NaNoWriMo folks out there, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that the process has helped a lot of writers get things done. More power to them. But for my delicate sensibilities, NaNoWriMo’s simple word count goal is annoying to the point that it hurts my process. I don’t want to write 50,000 words. I want to write a novel. A story. A “piece of art” that makes me feel something or learn something or … well … I want to write something that matters to me, and so the goal cannot be 50,000 words (because that matters zero), but instead has to be “a story.”
That’s the gig for me.
I do love the challenge of finishing a work in a month because it forces the critical brain to step aside and just let your crazy go wild. That is massive fun, and when I make my goal “tell a story” rather than “fill pages with 50,000 words,” the magic begins.
I’m thinking about that this morning because, after a series of conversations with Lisa (the friend/writer—as differentiated by Lisa, the wife/copy editor), we’ve decided to go back and do it again.
So, yes, I’m going to write a novel in a month. This month.
I do not know how long it will wind up being. My pure guess is in the neighborhood of 80,000 words. But that truly is a pure guess. I say this because, though at first I decided I would use this process to take a short story and extend it to the longer length it needed to be, this morning, as I sat down to write, I changed my mind.
Instead, I’m going to write a third weird baseball fantasy/SF/thriller to go with the two I’ve done in the past.
I’m choosing this because it’s a pure passion play, a book I’ve been wanting to write because these things are great fun but that I’ve been putting off simply because I don’t think it’s commercial at all. As I looked at the page today, however, I said to myself: “Self, it’s time to just go crazy on the page and do something that is pure joy.”
So this is where I came out.
This means I’m writing completely into the dark. Sitting here this morning, I can tell you who the main character is—or at least who he was. I can tell you the basic setting. Kind of. I can talk a bit about how the story will make me feel. But I can’t tell you what the problems are, who the antagonists will be. I can’t tell you what happens to kick the thing into gear. Nothing. Only that I’m going to sit down and open my heart and see what comes out.
Which is both scary as hell and pretty damned exciting, right?
You can follow my progress here, of course. If things go well, I’ll be dropping updates daily, probably cross-posting on a few other platforms.
You can also follow Lisa’s progress here.
And now, it’s time to buckle up. Time’s a’wastin, and I’ve got a story to tell.