National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), for those of you that don’t know, is every November. 50,000 words, a fresh novel, 30 days. I love NaNoWriMo; I’m horrible at it, but I love it. For instance, the first year I tried to participate was 2011. November 1, 2011—my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and I had no power thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Nothing puts a crimp on kicking off a fresh novel and an insane word count challenge quite like a flashing battery light on your laptop. Last year and the year before, I wrote less than 5,000 words combined—seriously.
November is just not a good writing month. Maybe it’s the changing weather, or the holidays, or the fact that the first half of the month is very busy for me at work, but November just doesn’t work for me. My NaNoWriMo lifetime word count was under 20,000 before I started this month. Ouch. In April, during Camp NaNoWriMo—where you can make your own word count goal and work on an existing project—I wrote 24,000 words on my current novel.
Regardless, I love NaNoWriMo. This year I’m a Nano Rebel. I’m not working on a new project. I’m (hopefully) going to finish my work in progress. That should only take about 15,000 words—God help me if it’s more that. I just surpassed 5,000 words, which puts me on par to reach my goal (and about 11,000 words behind the normal NaNo schedule).
I’m slow writer. I think about sentence structure and narrative when I should just be getting the words out. When I was younger I’m sure I scribbled out 50,000 words in my notebooks in a month without a thought; writing and writing until my hand cramped. I lost a lot of that innocence post-MFA. And even though I know most first drafts suck, I’m still a habitual self-editor. A writing sprint for me now might be 1,000 words, and that’s on a good day when the scene I’m working on just so completely flows that I don’t mind that parts of it are clunky, or when I force myself to keep writing even though I suspect that section will get deleted tomorrow.
I’ll never win NaNoWriMo. But I still look forward to it every year. I love the challenge of writing every day, even if it’s just a sentence. Of immersing myself for that month in the world of writing. It takes effort and dedication. There’s work—where I write and edit most of the day—there’s family and friends; hell there’s television I want to watch and a stack of books I have yet to read. It’s easy to be a writer who doesn’t write. But NaNoWriMo challenges that notion. It forces you to say, “I’m a writer, and for 30 days I’m going to act like one.”
Twenty days left, 10,000 words to go on my goal, and I just reached one of the biggest moments in my novel. Things are looking up. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m a writer, I guess I better go start acting like one.