Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skipping 2013's NaNoWriMo

I've participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the past two years.

In 2011, I actually won -- that is, I finished writing 50,000 words in November. That doesn't mean the finished product is actually any good, or that I'll be the next big thing in writers. It just means I spewed forth enough content to make a roughly 100 page novel (or maybe at that length it's still a novella).

That first year, I went in without a plan. I had an opening line ("All I wanted was a cup of coffee and a goddamn muffin.") and nothing else. I was pantsing it, as it were. Flying by the seat of my pants, no direction, no set end in site. What came out was a probably-cliché mystery about an aging rock star, his missing son, and the formerly-depressed writer/fangirl helping him.

It's not hard to figure out that my protagonist (Agatha) was a fictionalized version of myself -- she was chubby with red hair, a writer, and like me in 2011, had recently come out of a serious depressive episode that damaged relationships.  It's the kind of fluffy little story that could probably sell decently as a low-priced Kindle-only release. And maybe I should put the time and effort into editing it so it can be published. I don't know. I've never let anyone else see it, so I don't know how to gauge if it's actually entertaining.

Last year, I had more of a plan. I started with an opening line, again ("There used to be a waterfall"), but I had also sketched out a quasi-outline and some characters. It was going to be an epic dystopian trilogy, a la The Hunger Games, Matched, or Divergent. Hopefully with sales and movie deals to follow suit. There would be enough social commentary to make me feel good (Overt feminism! Anti-deregulation of businesses! Teenagers that have sex and don't become completely damaged by it!) and possibly get it banned from high school libraries in at least a few of the red states. It was going to be awesome.

I didn't finish. School got in the way. I swore that I'd use my free time over the summer to work on it, but that didn't happen either. Now it's been more than a year since I started and I haven't progressed past where I was at the end of November 2012.

I've often wondered why it is that I can churn out nearly 2,000 words each day in November but my work languishes untouched for the other 11 months of the year. I guess I thrive on the pressure and the social aspect (you can log your progress on the NaNoWriMo website, plus chat with locals, and I'm in a small NaNo group with some friends on Facebook), which doesn't exist the rest of the year.

If only NaNoWriMo were at a different time of year, maybe I'd be more successful. I get that November is when the weather turns cold and makes people want to stay indoors. But it's also the time when people are preparing for the holidays and finishing up their fall semesters. The first NaNoWriMo, back in 1999, happened in July. I like that. I think that would be more fair to people who are in school. Much like how November's chilly rain makes you want to escape inside to a warm laptop and your heater, July sends you running for the air conditioner. It just seems like a better option.

So I guess what I need to do is participate in Camp NaNoWriMo. It's smaller, though, and people in my private writing group don't seem to participate. It's not the main event, so it doesn't have the same widespread push and publicity.

But maybe I'll try it out. It could be just enough peer pressure to keep me honest.

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