As November approaches, which is a pretty big month for me, I’ve seen quite a few NaNoWriMo posts, and that got me thinking. I’ve written some 10 manuscripts in my life, and I’ve never once participated in NaNoWriMo. I’m not going to participate actively this year either. However, that doesn’t in any way mean I don’t appreciate it.
The spirt of November is to get people writing. I have quite a few conversations with people who say they want to be writers, but sure enough, whenever I ask what they’re working on, they never do. NaNoWriMo is a beautiful idea designed to force people who say they want to write to actually write.
When I’m drafting (the portion of the writing process most directly related to NaNoWriMo), I end up writing at least 1,000 words a day, and I average 2,000 on the weekend. So let’s see, that would equate to about 38,000 in a month. So I can’t proclaim I write 50K or have ever written 50K in one month, but I feel confident I’ve done it. At one point while drafting New Utopia, I’d written 10K in a single day just to see if I could. New Utopia is a ways down the road as that’ll need extensive revisions. The point is, I commit to writing everyday. Oddly enough, that makes me think of Christmas or one of those heritage month celebrations.
I honestly love Christmas. It is, in fact, my favorite holiday, but I promise there’s a correlation. I get upset during heritage month celebrations because they always feel like pretense to me, which is offensive. It feels like, “Today is the day we’re going to acknowledge that people of different races, nations, or sexual orientations are important.” Meanwhile I stand there and wonder why we can’t just be respectful every day of the year? Why can’t we carry on the spirt of Christmas all year?
Do I claim to be perfect? HA! Not remotely. However, I do make a serious effort to be generous whenever possible. To me, generosity is the spirit of the holiday known as Christmas. I also happen to feel personally that it was the day my savior was born, but that’s a different subject.
I also try my best to actually ignore differences. At work, I’m very unconcerned with what color you are, where you’re from, or who you sleep with. All I care about is your ability to perform your job. I love culture. Maybe not “experiencing” so much, but certainly “understanding” it, so I’m prone to asking blunt and endless questions. If I meet someone who’s been to or from another country, I tend to pepper them with questions. I remember when a dear friend of mine became Vegan. I was amused on one degree, but also curious. You see, culture is what makes each of us special, but I’m a firm believer that when someone points out differences, you’re creating segments. So I make it a point to focus on what we all have in common (the work).
So here comes NaNoWriMo, and a bunch of people will sit down and finally start writing. (Hopefully they’re writing their submission for The Power of Words.)
My feeling, personal though it may be, is that NaNoWriMo takes away excuses. It’s beautiful. I’ve never needed a reason to sit down and write, but if this is what gets young writers in front of keyboards, then I love it.
No, I’m not going to try to write 50K, but I am going to try and get another draft of Repressed done (getting Bob’s second edition on shelves takes priority). That brings me to the spirit of NaNoWriMo, and in that spirit, I offer any first-time participants this advice.
Commit to a word count, but start small in the beginning: This is all the more important if you’re cold starting. Someone who has a few books written or has at least grown to writing every day probably don’t need to worry about this step, but beware overextending. If you say you have to write 1,700 words a day, and that first day you only manage 700, you’ll feel defeated and quit. You will gain speed and word count as you write every day. Don’t panic or quite if you only get a few hundred words out the first week. The more you write, the more momentum you’ll generate and be able to write. I promise!
Write, but just write: I see my students fall into a trap. They want the thing they’re writing to be perfect on the first try. That’s impossible. I’m releasing the second edition of Bob Drifter and even that won’t be perfect, but it’ll be better. There’s more to it, but the relevant part of this is that when I draft, I don’t revise or edit. I just go. It took me, oh, I’d say two years to learn to let go of the desire to be “perfect” when I draft. The first book I ever finished writing went through 21 additional complete rewrites. Each time, I felt more and more defeated. There were many problems, but my biggest hangup was that I kept thinking, “This draft will be perfect.” I don’t think writers ever finish a book; they just run into deadline or realize they have to let go. I leave it to you to decide how many revisions and edits you should do, but if you never write the darn thing in the first place, you’ll never publish anyway.
Make every month NaNoWriMo: Never stop. I don’t draft nearly as much as I write, but I always push forward. Lately, I’ve done a better job of committing to a project. I finished Sojourn before I worked on Bob’s second edition. When I sent that to the editor, I drafted Repressed, and even accidentally drafted The Worth of Words. Now that I have Bob back, I’ll get it on shelves (hopefully by the end of November), and then I’ll turn my full attention to Repressed. But even when I send that out, I’ll shift right over to Worth of Words. My point is, I’m always working. I motivate myself by finishing projects, and having that project I want to get to planned. It sort of tempts me. You see, I’m excited to write Betrayed (the sequel to Caught). That means I can’t wait to finish those other projects so I can get to this one. The more you do, the more you will do. So have fun out there. I may not be with you in function, but I’m absolutely with you in spirit.
Thanks for reading,
4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: The Spirit of the Month I Never Actually Participate in”
I love NaNoWriMo! If I commit to it and I don’t make the goal – that little ‘participated but did not win’ bugs the crap out of me. So I have to find a way to win. I still haven’t decided if I am going to participate this year though because I’m taking almost double 150% the recommended amount of units in college, I’m basically running a literary journal by myself, November is midterms season, now I’m trying to maintain a blog… Idk. But I love the feeling of NaNoWriMo. Cold hands, sore wrists (lol thats not good though), this certain mug I always use, interacting with people on there, candles my mom always uses this time of year… I think I’m going to have to participate!
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As long as you’re writing, I’m a happy guy. That brings up a question. I’m a momentum based guy. Everything I do is built around finding wins in my process. To me, participating and not getting to 50K would crush me. If you participate and don’t make it, will that motivate you to write even more, or hinder your motivation? Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck. The world needs good stories.
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Yeah, I’m not participating, either. I hear you though. It does seem as if there is a need for permission to write. To take that step.
I can’t commit to 1.7k words per day. Not with a day job, 2 kids, and a spouse, none of which I want to lose 🙂 But then I don;t seem to need permission as I have 1 book done and working through querying it while I have 5 other WIPs in various stages of completion. Yeah, November is going to be a revision month for me!
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The good news is you’re writing and making progress. Each person has the right to determine what the most he or she can do. For me, I have daily goals. As long as I hit those (and I usually push beyond those goals), I’m happy. Best of luck to your query.
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