Celebrating Nanowrimo (without Signing Up)

Ah, November… Rain and wind, night falling at 5, streets blanketed with wet yellow leaves, the long winter coat that doesn’t yet feel boring when you just take it out of the closet… and the Nanowrimo!

In 2005, I joined the crowd, after I had done the math of breaking down the 50,000 words into 30 days to make them a bit more manageable. But the total figure (as in FIVE-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO) remained frightening and completely out of reach. I wanted to prove myself that I was capable of writing so many pages, although my favorite format always had been (and still remains) the short story or the novella. I did most of the research during October. The more I invested into research, the more important the challenge became. I could not fail. I could not just give up, it would have been so disappointing. I wrote during work breaks, at lunch time, over dinner and in the evenings (and I am a big sleeper, so that doesn’t amount to much!). I plotted during my commute. I was elated, I was stressed, I obsessed over wordcount. I even made an Excel chart to record the progress towards the dreaded FIVE-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO. Mr. Smithereens was very very supportive, even though it meant one whole month of eating frozen mush, listening to a lot of crap about fictional people and watching tv alone on the sofa while I tried to concentrate in the next room. I never managed to join one of those real-life meetings and writing sessions organized in Paris’ Starbucks coffee, but I remember with fondness the forums, especially the mystery and history ones, where people exchanged tips and encouragement. The sense of community really gave me momentum to write on and let go of my doubts.

On November 30, I reached the great FIVE-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO (and maybe a dozen more, but just about so). I had over 80 single-spaced pages of adventures set in Manchuria back in the 1920s. I was among the 9,700 winners (on 59,000 participants). I felt so happy, and Mr. Smithereens seemed very proud to have a wife capable of writing so many words in such a short time.

Four years later, I still have the draft on my computer. The story has been left where it stood on November 30, 2005 (I suck at story endings, as a principle). I still have the Excel chart. I haven’t done really anything out of this project, but it still feels great. The lesson I got is that I needed to pay more attention to the plot and the steps towards the resolution of the mystery, and not just about the characters and the setting of the initial conflict. And for the record, I’m still stuck after page 3 of each short story I write.

November has taken a whole new meaning ever since, as I think about the thousands of people who struggle at writing like crazy for one whole month. I know I won’t be able to devote so much time to writing in such a short period for a while, but I’m okay with that. So I just want to cheer on all the 2009 Nanowrimo participants, especially Cam who regularly drops by. I remember that the second part of the month drags on and on and that writing seems harder and harder every day. Go writers! You can do it! FIVE-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO-ZERO!


2 thoughts on “Celebrating Nanowrimo (without Signing Up)

  1. I did Nanowrimo a number of years ago and like you broke it down into how many words I had to write each day. On the days I didn’t make it i was devasted and the next day I would redouble my efforts. I had no idea what I was writing most of the time and it didn’t matter as long as I was writing something. I made it to the end with a few words to spare, exhausted but proud. I’ve not done anything with what I wrote either except read and be surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I don’t think I will ever do it again but it was definitely worth it!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, but while I’ve lived with my characters intruding on my thoughts during my commute, while preparing dinner, during tedious conference calls and other business dreariness, two weeks with the flu put me so far behind on all of the other things that I had to do that I had to give up on the idea of realistically hitting 50,000 by Nov 30th. But, I learned so much from the experience. Will I attempt NaNoWriMo again? Maybe in January, for instance? Hmmm — I’ve had crazier thoughts before. I’ll soon post something on my blog about my lessons learned, but it wasn’t until 2 days ago that I could even acknowledge that it wasn’t going to happen this year. But, I am not looking on this as a failure, so all’s good. Thanks for the encouragement.

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