I love November. The weather is cooling off, it’s the start of the holidays, and I’m steadily gaining weight from all the leftover Halloween candy and Thanksgiving practice cooking. (What? You don’t bake pies weeks before the actual holiday just to make sure you’re doing it right? Well you should. It’s delicious.)
But you all know the real reason I love November so much. You know. My friends and family know. The cashier at the grocery store knows. Everyone knows (and is sick of it) because I can’t shut up about it: NaNoWriMo.
But why do I put myself through this grueling writing marathon? And how do I go about approaching it? Here’s my NaNoWriMo confessional.
Why I NaNo
Did you guys know that I only found out about NaNoWriMo a year ago? Actually, I discovered it on November 4, 2012. Yup. My first ever NaNoWriMo and I started four days late. That meant no time for planning, no time for outlining, no time for mental preparation (which is terrifying to a compulsive planner like myself).
Four days late. That equates to 6,668 words behind schedule. But I wanted to write a novel, dammit! And while I knew that 50,000 words was not technically a full-length novel, it was far more than the 800 words I’d been obsessing over for the last three months.
I poked around the NaNo site, taking in the forums, the thousands of participants, …the winner’s shirt. Then I read something that made me fall in love with NaNoWriMo. Somewhere on the site, there was the explanation that NaNo wasn’t about writing a near-perfect novel. It wasn’t about quality at all. It was about quantity. About turning your inner-editor off and getting your words down.
What a concept! Up until that point, I had been editing AS I had been writing – never able to let a passage go untended if it wasn’t concise or if the wording was a bit awkward. Hence the three pages of novel that I’d been sitting on for nearly a quarter of a year. But NaNo made so much sense to me – I needed to give myself the permission to just suck at writing. To really, truly, write something hideous. But something that I could, nonetheless, edit later on.
So, with the sense that I was making a very stupid decision that would mar my social life for all of November, I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo 2012.
And by November 30th, I had 50k words. In fact, I hit my 50K a couple days early.
It turns out I just needed to put myself in the right frame of mind. I needed to tell myself: “You’re not a bad writer – but in November, be a bad writer.” I mixed metaphors, jumped tenses, and threw in an ugly amount of cliches. But it was okay. It was all in the name of NaNo. And at the end of the month, I had 50,000 words of a novel written.
For the last year since NaNo, I’ve continued to embrace crappy first drafts. In doing so, I’ve since been able to launch a site for my short fiction, co-found the Sprint Shack, and work on various other writing projects. That’s 99.9% more writing than I was doing pre-NaNo 2012!
And now that it’s November again, NaNo is in full swing and I’m loving it. I’d be lying if I said it’s all rainbows and lollipops. It’s only day five and there’s already been a couple instances of horrible procrastination. But I’m getting there – slowly inching toward November 30th and my 50k. And at least I didn’t start four days late!
How I NaNo
Since this is my second NaNo (not counting the 2013 Camp NaNo sessions), I spent the entire last year gearing up for NaNo 2013. In the months leading up to November I: did word sprints, participated in Faye’s Write Chain Challenge, and kept a running streak of 250+ days of consecutive writing on 750words.com. I trained up and increased my stamina. I was the Rocky Balboa of NaNoWriMo prep. And on November 1st – I. Was. READY.
At the time of this post, I’ve already reached the 15,000 word mark. That puts me ahead of pace for day 5. But I can feel the procrastination forcing its way in. Now that the initial adrenaline of NaNo has worn off (Don’t you guys get a physical rush from NaNo? No? I’m the only one?), I find myself much more easily distracted from my writing.
But remember how I said I’d been preparing for NaNo? Well, I also prepared for these times of extreme procrastination. One of the things I did was to start making #NaNoWagers. I made various bets with other WriMo’s that, should I fail to finish my 50k during November, will result in me doing a variety of embarrassing things. And remember how I said that I couldn’t shut up about NaNo in the months preceding it? Remember how everyone in my life is sick of hearing about it? I do that for a reason. I broadcast the fact that I am, most definitely, going to be participating in NaNoWriMo and I will certainly win it.
That’s what keeps me going, really. That’s what snaps me out of my procrastination and forces me to get the words down – the accountability. The bragging rights. I love winning (who doesn’t?) and, inversely, I HATE losing. I hate losing more than I love winning. So all those months of talking about NaNo and making #NaNoWagers – that’s part of the preparation too. It plants that seed of expectation in everyone else’s mind – and mine – that I will finish November with those 50,000 words completed.
Why do YOU NaNo? And how do you approach it? Leave a comment below! And happy NaNo-ing!!