NaNoWriMo Debrief

This is my second attempt to write a blog post about my 2014 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Why? Because I haven’t written non-fiction in 30 days and it’s hard to suddenly switch back. I’m also out of practice with some key elements to good blogging, such as caring if what you write is any good and knowing when to stop.Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

Oddly enough, my first NaNo was the easiest one, and it’s only gotten harder since then. Perhaps it’s because your first will always be the novel you’ve imagined the most, and therefore it will be the one you’re most prepared to write. That was certainly the case for me. My first year I started without much preparation, yet I already knew my protagonist, antagonist, love interest, several supporting characters, a few key settings, the basic plot outline, and what themes I wanted to explore. This year I knew months in advance I would write that superhero story I’ve been kicking around for years, yet when November 1st arrived I realized I wasn’t prepared at all.

I didn’t have a plot beyond a few basic ideas. I didn’t have an antagonist until halfway through the month. I had a few isolated scenes and a whole lot of placeholders. Placeholders like, “a scene where she first notices her powers,” and “she should kill someone in a way that is understandable but not really justified.” These are about as helpful as someone suggesting you should “put in something really cool.” Thanks. I’ll get right on that.

Yet through it all I managed to bash out 50,359 words in 30 days. A lot of them are very bad. Most of them will be thrown out before anyone sees a first draft of my yet untitled superhero book. But it’s a start. And it’s more of a start than I had 30 days ago. Most importantly, last night my boyfriend went to the store and bought me a box of celebratory Lucky Charms. So not only did I write a book, but today I had Lucky Charms for dinner. And it’s not even Christmas yet.

My First NaNoWriMo

At some point near the end of college I realized writing is what I wanted to do, and that I was better at it than any of the other things I considered doing. So it was decided. I would be a writer. I knew it would take time. Nobody starts a career as a full-time writer, just like no one starts as a full-time actor. I could wait. I could get other jobs in the meantime.

I called myself a writer though. Or rather, I told people I wanted to be a writer. I rarely said that I was a writer to anyone but myself. Perhaps this was because I knew deep down that I was missing a key component: I wasn’t writing. Oh sure I dabbled in a scene or two, but I wasn’t doing it often. I wasn’t doing it consistently. And I wasn’t producing anything to completion. Writers write, and I wasn’t writing.

nanowrimo-logoI had known about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for some time, and I scoffed at it. Many people do. They look down on it because it encourages people, especially novices, to write as much as they can as fast as they can, even though a lot of it will be bad. That’s not real writing, I’d say. You can’t just put up an arbitrary goal and force terrible prose onto a page for the glory of pretending you’re a writer for a month. That’s idiotic.

I was a NaNoWriMo hater.

However I couldn’t think too poorly of NaNo because I had some good friends who did it every year. And they loved it. So while I still discounted it, I discounted it as a fun way for amateurs to bust out that one novel everyone has in them. Cross it off the bucket list. There was nothing wrong with that, I thought.

Haters gonna hate.

My friend Kristina is a vlogger and has a good-sized following online. She has done NaNo for years and one October I saw a video pop up on my news feed featuring her annual NaNo pep talk. I was mildly interested, so I watched it. She talked about her excitement, about getting ready, and casually mentioned that this would be her seventh year doing NaNo.

Seven.

I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but it hit me then like a ton of bricks. Kristina had six completed novels on her computer at home. My friend Kristina. SIX. I didn’t even have one. And unlike me, Kristina didn’t go around thinking about her fantastic writing career that was just around the corner, and looking down on people who only wanted to write one month a year.

Instead, she wrote six books.

It was a turning point for me. I did NaNo that year with four days notice, and I loved it. I began listening to podcasts about writing and going on writing forums. Everyone seemed to reiterate the same basic fact: what makes you a real writer is that you write. And now? I write.

This November marks the third year I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo. If you’re even the least bit interested I encourage you to join me (my username is NoodleDrive if you want to be my buddy). Some people may get snarky when you tell them you’ve arbitrarily decided to write a novel, but give them time. They might wise up eventually.

Haters Gonna Hate