Why I am, and am not, doing NaNoWriMo



I have a stack of unedited novels, most of which I wrote or began during NaNoWriMo.

Since around 2002 when a friend, a fellow political and Tolkien geek, introduced me to NaNoWriMo I have made several attempts. Sometimes successfully.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It can be done. It can rarely be done well.

But that’s the fun of it. No editing. No doubling back to check facts. Just 30 days of writing like mad.

Since my first try I think I’ve actually reached the goal maybe four or five times. Thus the stack of unedited novels.

I knew that I had no hope of successfully completing the challenge this year. I’m in the midst of wrapping up my second show this fall, and for a while was anticipating third. I explained earlier this week why that’s no longer on my calendar.

To be successful in NaNoWriMo, you need to write an average of 1600-1700 words a day. With no other writing projects I could actually pull that off. But I have the blog and a list of paying assignments that need to be completed.

Enough excuses for why I’m not doing this. What I decided instead was to take my favorite of the projects and edit it into a good first draft. That’s first, definitely not final, draft. I love this particular story, but it has some gaps and timeline issues. I need to fix those.

The best part is that with the other novels I’ve written, I’ve come up with a way to rewrite them all into a series of at least four books. That will take a while. And I have to be disciplined enough to remember that I need to concentrate on the first of the series. The others will follow.

I don’t know if other writers struggle so much with actually getting a novel together into a readable and hopefully marketable format. I think they probably do.

Writing is easy. Writing well is not.

Flannery O’Connor said:

Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.

I’m taking that plunge and O’Connor is absolutely right.

My novel is not autobiographical, but it does contain enough of my past to sometimes be revealing, sometimes be painful. I find that I write much better when I draw on those experiences, however painful, however embarrassing, than when I try to create an entirely new storyline based on little experience and little or no knowledge.

I think that’s why my space opera only made it to the third chapter.

So I’m back to writing about being a writer who grew up in Southwest Virginia and who once worked for the local weekly newspaper.

Not. Autobiographical. At. All.



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