It's that time of year again. NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know, National Novel Writing Month. The goal: write 50,000 words of a novel from November 1 to November 30. The prize: a chance to say, "I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days--what did you do?"
It may seem silly for me to enroll in NaNoWriMo when novel writing is, you know, my job. I had even started a new manuscript a couple of weeks ago, only to put it down after 20,000 words in so I could mentally prepare for the novel I've been "saving" for NaNoWriMo. That's even sillier, right? Add to that the assertion I made a couple of years ago: "I'm never doing NaNoWriMo again!"
So what's behind my decision to do NaNoWriMo again?
Let me start with why I made the previous assertion in the first place. Writing 50,000 words of a novel--in any stretch of time--is an impressive achievement. Writing 50K in 30 days is especially impressive for people who have full-time jobs and families. (Me? I don't even have a cat.) My writing process consists of me writing on the fly with little to no preparatory outlining/organizing. I get the words on the page and figure out what they mean and where they go during the revision process (which, for me, is the blood, sweat, and tears of writing). Sounds like a good fit for NaNoWriMo then, right? Just bang the words out and worry about it all later.
Except here's the thing: When you're constantly thinking about word count, the words you "bang out" tend to be, well, wordy. In short, my NaNo novels were the ones that needed the most editing and re-writing. They contained more passive voice, more redundancy, more drawn out description than when I'm less concerned about making a word count (although I do usually set word count goals when I draft, even if just a few hundred words at a time).
Ordinary World was a NaNo novel. So was Adulation. (She Has Your Eyes may have been as well. Or maybe I simply wrote during that month. Would you believe I can't remember?)
The pressure of the NaNo challenge can also cause writers to break out in spontaneous weeping, excessive caffeine ingestion, and the accumulation of a really big pile of laundry. And for what, again? What do we win?
Well, for one thing, NaNoWriMo typically brings writers together. For the most part, writing a novel is a solitary act. Sure, I'll report my daily word counts on Facebook and Twitter, and read the comments from my fellow writers ("Shut up"), but it's not the same as knowing that a group of people, collectively, are participating in the same insanity as you are at the same time. Participants across the country form writing groups where they can gather in one place for the sole purpose of writing. They share word counts and receive cheers and notes of encouragement from strangers and friends. Some even post excerpts of their work as they go along. I get to be simultaneously competitive and supportive.
But here's the main reason why I'm doing it: Process.
Earlier this year my brother Mike started blogging about making an album (he's since put the blog on hiatus, and I miss it!). I loved it because I somehow felt part of the project, even though, like me, he doesn't like to share the content. I thought it would be interesting for me to blog about the process of writing a novel (without revealing what the novel is about), yet I worry that doing so will somehow interfere with the creative part (Mike had those same worries).
There's something special about witnessing a project develop from start to finish. When I saw The Social Network for the first time, I felt as if somehow I had been part of its being born solely because I'd witnessed Aaron Sorkin share stories about the writing, filming, working with David Fincher, etc. Maybe, if I document my process, readers will feel the same way should this book be published (which is the greater goal). Maybe they'll be surprised to learn what's involved. Maybe it'll somehow ruin the magic for them, like watching how sausages are made.
I must really be nuts, however: write 50,000 words of a novel--and a weekly blogpost about the process--in 30 days? To say nothing of the fact that I'll be making at least two trips to NY, possibly three?
What can I say? It's my job. Beats workin' for a living.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.