Letting go of NaNoWriMo

I’m not quitting, exactly.

I’m just letting go.

I had never written a novel during National Novel Writing Month. I have never written a novel before; not the whole thing anyway. So this, for me, was a good test of if I really wanted to write something like this as all. I am a poet after all, and that tends to make me more a sprinter than a marathon runner.

As fun as this project has been, I have more pressing real life matters (like finishing my classes for the semester and assembling invitations for my wedding, yikes!). With the holidays coming up I thought I would give myself permission to make this project a little longer than the back breaking 30 days prescribed by NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to share my thoughts none the less.

So, 7,500 words behind and fingers nearly raw, I have come to a few realizations about writing and the race that is NaNoWriMo:

  1. Jumping the gun

I wanted to write so badly on October 29 that I actually had to hold myself back and focus on other projects. The idea of writing those first few days was such a thrill I ended up writing 3 days worth on the first day. The glitter faded of course, as I was only displacing other things like homework and this blog for the chance to put energy into the novel. It was not that I was more inspired, or suddenly more talented, but that I had given myself the forum to write and write I did.

  1. Write and you will succeed

The exciting and rather simple truth about a game with a word count, is that the words don’t have to be particularly compelling, they simply have to be numerous. I was almost relieved that the words weren’t being graded by anyone, and my quality was not in question. This allowed me, an over thinker, to turn off my brain and just write. Since I am writing a memoir, more specifically about a year in my life in a particular job,  just letting myself write and allowing the simple truths and patterns reveal themselves was more compelling than my own flowering language.

  1. I do have time to write

I think the knee jerk reaction is: no one has time. We aren’t able to sit down every day and write for hours so the books in us are trapped until we have time. But I found time to write 23,000 words in 14 days, almost half a “book” in half a month. Then things got busy and assignments were due, and I took a few days off. But the evidence is there for me at least, there is time, even when I’m on the couch, to write a little down.

  1. 1,000 words a day is a totally realistic goal, kind of.

NaNoWriMo asks the diligent writer to make 1,667 words a day to get to 50,000 by the end of the month. This is a challenge for most of us who work or go to school (or both). Anyone who needs to make dinner for a family or pick up kids from school after work might think any number is a reach goal. But I have found that 1,000 words is pretty easy to get in one thought. I tend to write about 100 words a paragraph, so 1,000 words is just 10 tight paragraphs. Totally do-able.

  1. I am a better writer, even if I lose

I don’t plan to write the next great American novel. Not on the first time. This was just an experiment for me and I am happy to say it was a success. I am a better writer now that I know how I write, the constraints of my style, and the way I can push my writing when I get fatigued. I even got better at dialogue with practice!

It’s a shame that this challenge happens in November; I feel as if there might be a better time of year to ask writers to pause their lives. But there’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday next week and I need to be realistic. I may not finish Diary of a Dancing Goat this month, but I think by the first of the year I will be editing and sculpting rather than just monkey-smashing my keyboard!

These are my thoughts. Hope you are having a lovely end of 2015!

Keep writing!

—ECW

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NaNoWriMo – Worth It?

I am first and foremost a poet.

But this also makes me a memoirist.

Not all poets write their own stories in their work, but often I do, making the leap to actual memoir a pretty manageable one. November is one of those dreaded months for a writer, where there is all this obligation: what will I write? How will this matter in the long run… and the big question:

Is it better to write something poor quickly or write something rich over a longer span of time.

And again, I am a poet. So the thought of 50,000 words extinguishes me. At the library where I work, we are doing a small outreach program to welcome writers and I thought it would be valuable to participate and reach writers through that avenue. But again… is it worth the time.

For many of us in school (getting our masters) this is crunch time for projects and catching up on readings. For this reason I was never really involved before. For those of us with family it is turkey time, and who has extra hours when there’s baking to be done?

So I’ll write a novel… or half of a novel… with this in mind.

50,000 words is their goal, not mine. The NaNoWriMo challenge is made for novelists who want to write mysteries and thrillers; romance novels and sci-fi. For those of us in different genres, there are other constraints on what we can and cannot accomplish.

My memoir may only be 40K words, and that’s OK with me.

The important part is writing, community, inspiration and deadline. I want to write every day, but there’s so much good television on Netflix… maybe I need something like this to break the ice on this “writer’s block” – and maybe I’ll get 2 days in and think: no, I am a slow-burn kind of writer.

I won’t know unless I try!

To those of you writing: Best of luck. To those of you choosing to abstain: May your long-term projects be the fruit of your lives.

For now, I’m just getting my feet wet with longer-forms… I’ll keep you posted!
–Keep Writing
–ECW