How did it get here so fast!? How could I possibly have ignored it’s looming presence for so long?!
Is it some deep psychological need to bury my head in the sand every year and hope it passes me by like an Egyptian Plague from the Bible? Is it fear that blocks the self-inflicted mental and emotional exhaustion imminent in the month of November? Or have I really been so distracted with other deeply frustrating crap on top of sleep deprivation that I simply didn’t notice the date on the calendar?
(It’s probably the first one. Just sayin’.)
Okay. Okay. Lets say it together folks….
Rip it off like surgical tape on leg hair…
National Novel Writing Month. I can’t decide if this reaction is from pleasure because I’m a masochist or genuine cringiness. A month of pure writing. Of deadlines, goal-setting, hair-tearing, possible crying, freedom, imagination, accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s the best and worst for me.
NaNo is a glimpse into an author’s life, for any of you who aren’t writers. 30 days of angst, pure creativity and harsh reality. You should try it to get a taste. It starts with an idea. Bright, shiny, maybe a little outrageous. Something you haven’t read before, or thought of before. It latches onto your mind and you poke it to see what squirts out. A unique character. And amazing setting. A flash of the most perfect plot you’ve ever seen. It only takes one thing to get you hooked. A creative drug you will chase the rest of your life.
So you start to massage out this idea. You roll it out like dough in your mind and take some cookie cutters and outline some shapes and patterns. November 1st is coming and the pressure to have SOME SORT of direction mounts. But it’s okay. Just a basic outline because you know that your characters are going to run the show as soon as you get into a groove. They’ll take you in unexpected directions and you can ride their coat tails into plot and pacing perfection.
Protagonist you love? Check. Antagonist you love to hate? Check. Quirky side kick? Check. Love interest? Ehhhh we’ll see what happens there. Basic plot outline and a vague idea of the ending? Let’s hope so! October 31st, 11:59….GO!!
Week 1: Easy. The words are flowing like milk and honey from your fingertips. You post on the NaNo forums and update your word count proudly. You earn badges and maybe even donate to get the fancy halo on your profile picture. You help others with their novels and maybe even join a write in. You’re doing great! Everything going to plan!
Week 2: Okay, a little harder. Kinda like eating a second slice of cake at a party. The first one was delicious and sugary and wonderful. Second slice is harder and you feel yourself start to slow down and get sick. Your eyes stray to the dreaded word counter more and more. Your brain starts to wander to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, getting a second cup of coffee, laundry, walking the dog…anything else.
Week 3: Suddenly your bright shiny idea looks like sludge. Crap that you’ve seen on thrift stores shelves a million times over. Your protag isn’t unique enough. Your antag isn’t nasty enough. Your ending is dull and lifeless. Life sucks in general. You want to quit. You’re 5K words behind and you feel hopeless. Sitting at a keyboard looking at the blinking bar not moving. You mentally table flip.
Week 4: You find the time and energy to catch up the word count. You know it’s filler. Unnecessary scenes and lengthy dialogue just to get words on your counter. You add in characters for fluff. You take the setting to some place new to give a breath of fresh air to the plot. Maybe you add in ninjas in desperation. But you’re dragging yourself over the shattered dreams from week 1. Just get a novel down. Get 50K. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written. You can’t edit nothing. NO! DON’T THINK ABOUT EDITING! That’s a death sentence!
November 30th. You “Select All” and “Copy” your shitty manuscript. Shamefully; hopefully. NaNoWriMo.org, you “Paste” into the “Validate novel” box and with your heart beating fast, you click the button. And there it is. 50K+ words in a month. You made it. You’re a 2018 Winner! The accomplishment of setting a goal and actually finishing is yours to revel in. You have some semblance of a novel. You created something from nothing. BE PROUD. Get that Winner t-shirt. Eat the ENTIRE pan of brownies.
December 1st. Now go sleep for a week and binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix.
I promise you this is not over-exaggeration. Every single November this happens to me and millions just like me. Sometimes, like last year, I don’t even get past week 2. I think I’ve only won once actually. But the point is that I don’t stop trying, as much as I dread the ending days in October.
I have many stories in me that want to be told but I’m a perfectionist. I want a full and complete product to come out of me on the first try. (HAAAAA talk about unrealistic expectations!) The best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen on Pinterest were these:
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~ Terry Pratchett
“First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”~Caroline Mitchell
They are my biggest writing challenge to meet and it is something I’m striving for every word that comes from my fingers onto the screen/paper. I have to embrace imperfection and be willing to commit to taking this turd of a first draft and make it a turd sandwich that looks like chocolate and biscotti.
Commitment sucks. But it’s a cornerstone for a writer. Nano is a small exercise I can do to help that. So, alas, 7 days and approximately 11 hours till D-Day.
Come join me friends. It’s fun!! Haaaa……..