For a moment, I considered allowing my cat to keep typing this blog post for me. She seemed quite determined, and considering the subject of today’s post, her dogged insistence on standing on my computer seemed a bit apropos.
Alas, your eyes have escaped the inundation of kkkkkalsslsaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa;;;;; (Mostly. Willow says hello.)
This weekend, I attended my writing group’s NaNo kick-off party. That’s right. We’re only a few days away from November. Before that comes Halloween, but if you’re a writer (or you know any writers), the Halloween fun may be subsumed a little in the pre-November panic.
For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, also known as the month in which novelists replace their blood with caffeine and wear keyboards or pens attached to their digits for thirty days. The idea is to write a completed 50,000 word novel within 30 days.
Before I started participating in NaNo, I was sort of NaNo adjacent. There were several members of my Nashville writing group who participated every year, and because they weren’t particularly evangelistic about it, I only had the vaguest idea of what it entailed until I heard about it from other writers in 2011. I had a book to finish that year, so my first NaNo experience was rebel style.
The month of November may seem like merely another exercise in the self-flagellation writers are so good at, but I’m convinced it saved me from procrastination and false starts. In November 2011, I was halfway through a trilogy that I had started in the early years of college and never finished. By the end of NaNo, I had the second book completed and the third book half done.
While none of those books ended up going anywhere, they taught me something vital. When I went back and read over them, I noticed a marked fissure in style and voice precisely where I’d picked back up and plowed through the month of November in a bustling Panera with 10 or so other writers. The books weren’t consistent start to finish because I’d written them over half a decade. Even when I wasn’t actively writing fiction in a two year gap, I was blogging and reading and scribbling ideas. When I forced myself to finish something that first NaNo in 2011, it was a sobering feeling to look at what I’d written and realize the trilogy I’d spent years of my life working on was split down the middle. I’d grown too much to slap it together and call it good. I had to take it apart, or move on.
NaNo also taught me something else: I write best when I write fast. The next June for Camp NaNoWriMo, I finished a completely different book (in the question of “take apart” or “move on,” I chose the latter). That book got me my agent.
Before November, we still have Halloween (and a costumed Magetech episode this evening with the full crew!). But come November first, I’m diving into my sixth novel. For writers and other life forms, sometimes all we need is a month of intense focus. To see what words come out. To see what paintings take shape. To see what songs we can play by the end. To create a plan for a new business.
The entire pathos behind NaNo was born out of a desire to see what would happen. In a story that had sat on the back burner for years with hardly a simmer. In a life that had struggled to drive a goal to completion. In a community known for being made of solitaries.
NaNo was born over a decade ago, but each year it grows because we need that push, that oomph sometimes. I’ll be participating for my third year because I need to know what happens next. NaNo creates a forcefield, a bubble under which all that exists is the next thousand words. It’s a powerful thing, this mass of people writing alone and together at the same time. Will you join us next month?