Do or Do Not.

Oh, no — NaNo.

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In what was clearly an insane, feverish moment of self-delusional hysteria, I signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time in three years.  Fifty thousand words of fiction in thirty days, when I rarely write any fiction these days?  Pshaw, no problem at all.

The funny thing (or not so funny thing) is that it’s only been about six weeks since I irrevocably turned my back on writing fiction.  Not so much irrevocable, huh?  I thought I didn’t have any stories in my head or heart worth telling (and truth be told, I’m still not positive on this point), so I told myself (and Terry) that any writing I did was probably going to have to be in the non-fiction/commentary realm, which comes much more easily to me.  (Yes, the implication there is that I’m just lazy.)

Yet here I am, a month later, getting ready for this intensive submersion into words, words, so damn many words.

So my question to myself is:  why?  If writing fiction is something I thought I’d given up on, why subject myself to NaNo?

I’ve had people ask me a couple of times recently about how my writing was going, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell them I’d essentially given up, that I’d decided writing prose wasn’t my thang.  These friends only meant well, of course, and I certainly don’t get upset with people for asking — though I tend to get upset with myself for not having a good answer for them.  I truly feel bad, like I’m letting people down for not using abilities of mine that they’d like to see me use.

But while that’s a small part of my trying it again, it’s far from the main reason I’m doing so.  I feel like I’m letting myself down with this whole “giving up” thing.  I think I’m never going to be able to live with myself if I don’t give writing more of a shot than I have.  The last few Novembers, I’ve been disappointed in myself for not trying it (even when it didn’t make a lot of logistical sense for me to do it.)  And while I don’t think that participating in NaNoWriMo will be the final word for me on writing vs. not writing, and while I’m sure that the result of whatever I do for NaNo won’t be something I can sell, I think it’s important for me to try it, to get back into the habit of writing, to loosen up some of the constrictions I have in my head.

These, then, are my goals for National Novel Writing Month 2008:

  • Finish at least 50,000 toward one (relatively) cohesive story. Yes, the 50K words are the overall main goal of NaNo, but the only time I’ve actually “won” NaNo by making that goal, I totally (kinda) cheated:  while I did indeed write 50,000 words during the month of November, my story was actually three unrelated stories — all unfinished.  Twenty thousand words in, I realized I was stuck and completely changed stories; ten thousand words later, I realized that what I was doing sucked through and through and was going nowhere, so I changed again.  I think the first and last bits possibly could have been worth the whole 50,000 words if I’d stuck with them, but munging the three together felt like it was totally in violation of the NaNo spirit.  This time:  one story, though I make no guarantees that one story won’t ramble off into some bizarre tangential places…
  • I’m shooting for a minimum of 1,500 words a day. The more 1,500-word-days I accomplish, the fewer 3,000-word days I need to have to make up for slacking.  Fifteen hundred words isn’t really that bad; when I’m rolling, I can knock out that many words in under an hour, especially if I’m turning off such speedbumps as, well, editing.  I’m actually hoping for more like 2,000 per day, but 1,500′s the actual bottom-line goal.
  • Have fun. This one’s actually harder than it sounds for me because I get so wrapped up in my pursuit of perfection.  Trying to get back to that “spirit of NaNo” business, I intend to just go forward and not give a damn about editing or perfection.  I have to keep that “first draft” idea firmly in mind and know that I can revise the hell out of whatever I write after November.  I just want to relax and try to enjoy the process without being so wrapped up in the product.  (This is an ongoing concern for me in many areas of my life.)

You’ll notice over there in the sidebar (if you’re not reading this via RSS) that I’ve already posted one of the nifty NaNo calendars which show my total wordcount and day-by-day progress.  I’m hoping that putting this out there to all of you, and knowing that I have a public display of how well or poorly I’m doing, will help motivate me to finish.  So wish me luck — I hope to have a reasonably completed shitty first draft of a novel in a little over a month!

Written by Allen

October 22nd, 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Writing

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