found drama

get oblique

on the occasion of my 4th NaNoWriMo

by Rob Friesel

…or: The most amazing and energizing fun thing that I’ll (probably) never do again.

implementsFirst and foremost: my hat is off to the NaNoWriMo organizers–Chris Baty and Lindsey Grant and everyone else involved (too numerous to mention)–and to all the authors who took time to write encouraging essays and pep talk videos. And more so, to the thousands1 of writers who held their breath through the crazy month of November and made it.2 To all of you: thank you.

And that is the first “most amazing and energizing fun” part of it all: the community of writing and writers that springs up every November in every town, and online. When you are part of NaNoWriMo, you feel like you’re part of one big crazy community. And that’s because you are. You can easily surround yourself with all of the other people who have a story bursting inside them who are using the month as an excuse to squeeze that immeasurably massively imaginative story out through the tiny valve that is our brains. And we can all lean on each other3 and push each other to squeeze in that hour, to push through a four hour typing death march, or else to cobble together two hours in bits and pieces throughout the day. Fifty-thousand words sounds like a lot, and then you get past the first week and it all seems easy, and then it seems hard again4–but you push through5 and at the end you look at that dirty hundred or so words that you added so that you wouldn’t have to feel like That Guy that phone it in with 50,001.

And it’s that kick in the pants that makes for reason #2 why NaNoWriMo is “the most amazing and energizing fun thing”. You get that story started. Or you get it finished, or nearly finished. Or you get it all wrong and discover the story you really wanted to write. You dress it up and embellish it in ways that it doesn’t need and find out that your 50,000 word novel is garbage but it contains an amazing 10,000 short story. Your find that there are people who might want to read what you wrote. You make new friends that you can lean on for proof-reading and editing, people that you can trust will eviscerate it in the ways that you need–if you ask nicely to be eviscerated, if you’re serious about doing the work that it takes to write. And if you’re serious, you’ll find that you actually can find the time in the cracks of the rest of your life to make it happen. You won’t sit down in the morning and Jack London your way through a novel in 30 days. That’s a myth and you know it. But you also discover that even if you slow down, as long as you stay disciplined, you can put in the hours each day (or each week). You discover you can put in 5,000 words a week or more. And actually writing The Novel You Want It To Be, and not just The Novel You Banged Out In Thirty Days–well, it starts to seem achievable.

And speaking as a four time “winner”6, I feel like I can say these things confidently. These are true stories. Some of them are mine, some are friends’.

But 2011 might have been my last ‘WriMo.7 I had done it to get more practice in the craft. The first time as an effort to kick-start a project. (That almost worked.) And the second time as just a throw-away burn-down of an idea that I wanted badly to try. (And that was the most fun; and maybe the most salvageable?) Last year I tried to make it serious again. (And that didn’t work.) And this year… (Did I mention the “ReviseMo” bit yet?)

So yeah: I did it to get more practice in the craft. To establish routines and rhythms. I did it to get myself into the writing habits. To kick myself into gear. But I’ve developed those writing habits now.

Something was different this year. I think it was that I’d already been writing, been focused on a project for months already. That I had already gotten myself into a nice and comfortable flow of writing for the fun of it, but taking it just seriously enough that it wasn’t all garbage; of pushing myself to write every night (“even if only for an hour”8), but then not beating myself up over it when I needed to… well: to do those little chores and challenges and cherished things that come up in living.

Which is not to suggest that I did not enjoy NaNoWriMo 2011. I did. I always do.

But I wonder to myself if I’ve outgrown that little party. If I need to step away from the word-count madness. There’s a book in there, and it’s a good book. And it needs more than a month to flourish. The words need my full attention, not the ticker counting the words.

But I’ll probably “ReviseMo” again next year, like fourteen year-old in a slapped-together costume, making all of November into my Halloween.

  1. Millions? Hook a brother up with a citation or figure… []
  2. Or didn’t. Double-hats-off to the ones that don’t make it. Yours is the most sacred effort of all. []
  3. And compare daily word counts… []
  4. Now I’m just repeating the NaNoWriMo pep talks? []
  5. Or you don’t. []
  6. Check it: 2006, 2009 (my favorite year), 2010, 2011. []
  7. Though this I also called it my “ReviseMo” anyway… []
  8. Like tonight… []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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