In the past week, I’ve received a couple pieces of good news on my writing projects. My middle grade/young adult novel, Ever This Day, is currently under consideration with a new press. And the Conscious Monologues, a play including a piece I wrote about Women’s Ordination, has it’s debut performance next month. I would love to go to the opening, but I think my travels to Illinois last month for my cousin’s wedding and my trip to Kentucky this week for the Call to Action conference will have to be the extent of my travelling for this autumn.
But the most exciting thing that happened last week was the launch of NaNoWriMo, and my fifth year participating in the frenzied challenge to write a novel in 30 days.
I tend to approach NaNoWriMo with a combination of anticipation and dread. On the one hand, it gives me an opportunity to move my writing to the top of my priorities list in a way I don’t during the rest of the year, when I’m trying to develop myself as a writer while still leading a somewhat “balanced” life. It gives me the excuse to bow out of social engagements so I can get my word count, as well as to put off housework until the word count has been attained. And, on the other hand, it allows me to move my writing to the top of my priorities list in a way I don’t during the rest of the year. Which is also the downside, because putting writing first every day doesn’t necessarily facilitate the most balanced life. (But wow, I had forgotten how lovely it is to wander around in a fictional world-building haze.)
And ultimately, this is what both thrills and terrifies me about NaNoWriMo: because of my “finisher,” achievement-oriented personality, I become a bit of a slave to my word count during November, even when I claim I’m going to treat it “lightly” (something I told myself last year — I have no such delusions this year). This means that for one month of the year, I can’t hide from the moments when writing is most intense. I can’t hide from or put off that emotional climax at the end of the book, or the dreaded final line. If I don’t know what it will be now, I will by the time the month is over. I can’t procrastinate guilt-free by focusing on “other” writing projects, like blogging or promotion or research, until I feel “good and ready” to tackle the particularly meaty parts of the novel.
But that’s what’s so exhilarating, too. The breakneck speed at which your plot tumbles forward, dragging you with it. Because no matter how much time I try to buy with tangential word-count padding, it’s actually much easier to write 2,000 words per day when something substantial is happening than when it’s not. And when you write that much every day, you really can’t help the fact that the plot is unfolding.
The first several days of NaNo this year have been a blast for me, which has come as a pleasant surprise. My first year doing NaNo was deceptively easy, and set me up for disappointment the following three times I tried it, when the process of squeezing those 2,000 words out every day was fairly excruciating. (Last year, for the first time, I totally abandoned my unfinished novel when I hit 50,006 words, thinking something along the lines of, good riddance.) My 2008 novel, which developed into Ever This Day, started out as the worst thing I’d ever written during NaNoWriMo. But it also received the most diligent, dedicated, and loving revision. And I’d rather spend a year on the revision process than the first draft process, because writing the first draft is my least favorite part of writing. Why not get it out of the way in one horrible, wonderful, dreary, intoxicating month?
Already at this morning’s writing session, I could feel my beginner’s momentum slowing down, which is why I’m glad I racked up those words while I was feelin’ it. Now, to find 39,000 more where those came from!