Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NaNoWriMo Faux

As some of you know and others do not, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It's an official program, founded in 1999 and growing every year, where writers - both professional and amateur - commit to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch during the 30 days of November. Many of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo this year. They announce their daily word count on Facebook: 1571! 2383!

I've never signed up as a participant in NaNoWriMo, but I've been tempted by the writerly solidarity it fosters: all of these people all over the world writing frantically to meet this arbitrary-but-crucial deadline of 50,000 words by November 30. The genius of the program is that deadlines do matter; they so often make the difference between achieving our dreams versus never even taking the first step toward reaching them. Support and encouragement are crucial, too.

This year I actually have a novel I need to write this month, so this would have been a near-perfect opportunity to plunge into the festive NaNoWriMo waters. I balked chiefly because I had already written the first four chapters of the novel six months ago, when I submitted them to my publisher for the contract, and the NaNoWriMo commitment is to write an entire novel from start to finish in that time frame, not to continue and extend a work in progress. So I thought I could sort of do NaNoWriMo Faux - my own knockoff NaNoWriMo, where I channel the energy and enthusiasm of my fellow writers while doing things my own way.

So far, I have to say, I do not have the word counts on my project that my friends are posting on Facebook. Fake NaNoWriMo is not working as well for me as Real NaNoWriMo is working for them (or at least for those who are heralding their daily word counts on social media). Here are some possible reasons why.

1. I have a lifelong habit of writing only around a page a day. Given that my handwriting is so tiny, this may add up to 1000 words, but probably more like 750.  So this would be a huge leap for me. Then again, that is the whole point of NaNoWriMo: to take a leap you've never taken before. Many of its participants have a lifelong habit of writing no words a day at all.

2. I write by hand, so I have the additional task every day of transcribing my words onto the computer. This takes a lot of time, though also occasions some very good revisions as I type. People who write directly onto the computer can skip this laborious extra step. Although I write directly onto the computer all the time for work, email, blogging, I've always written all my books by hand and I'm not willing to deviate even for NaNoWriMo.

3. Because I have an actual book contract on my project, I have the (very damaging!) thought as I write that it really ought to be good. That kind of thought works against NaNoWriMo's goal which is: Just get it done! Worry about how good it is later! So the nagging critical voice inside my head, which NaNoWriMo is supposed to silence, slows me down.

4. Finally, and most important, I didn't actually sign up for NaNoWriMo. Fake is never as good as real. I've become obsessed with walking because of my new little Fitbit pedometer which logs my daily steps and keeps a tally of them online. I forgot to take my Fitbit to Sheridan for my recent Wyoming trip; without it, I lost all interest in walking. What was the point if my Fitbit wasn't recording each step? Pitiful, but true. I know NaNoWriMo would have had the same motivating effect on me for writing as my Fitbit does for walking.

But the point of this post is not to convince myself why I can't do what others - many others who have full-time jobs and demanding family responsibilities - are doing. The point is to remind myself that if they are doing it, I can, too. If the real NaNoWriMo-ers are writing up a storm, this fake NaNoWriMo-er can, too.

Off to write!

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