So November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’ve wanted to participate for several years now, but November is the time of year when things usually start to get really crazy in our family’s schedule, especially as the holiday season approaches. Previous years have also seen me dealing with numerous health issues, including depression and chronic back pain, along with the challenges of juggling a full-time job, a farm, a family, and additional education. I’ve always wanted to start taking my writing more seriously, and NaNoWriMo is this really enticing way of jumping in with both feet. Trouble is, NaNoWriMo is also really intimidating. It’s writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. Granted, that number amounts to a small novel, but it’s also a significantly larger block of fiction in a relatively small span of time than I’ve ever written before. In previous years I managed to justify my non-participation, at least to myself.
One of my goals for 2013 was to try to write more fiction and to complete at least one short story to submit to a magazine somewhere. Not the loftiest of goals, I’ll grant you, but it’s one I still haven’t managed to achieve. It’s amazing how quickly little things can eat at your time — and how easy it is to allow those things to eat your time. Rationalization is a writer’s bane, and I’m particularly skilled at it.
So when I received the reminder in my news feed about three weeks ago that NaNoWriMo is fast approaching, I decided to just take the bull by the horns. The thing about writing is that if you never get started, you never get anything written. Pretty simple concept, right? And yet, I never seem to get myself started. Once I do get started writing, I usually don’t have a problem keeping it going. Writer’s block is rarely ever a problem for me. I just have a hard getting started. I’m not the greatest self-motivator. To make matters worse, I’m excellent with the self-inflicted guilt trip. I find it very easy to make myself feel bad about not writing, which makes it harder to start writing, which makes me feel bad, which…
See the pattern here?
But I really want to write. What I want more is to be a writer, to make a living by putting words together. I know my weaknesses, I know my hang-ups, so I decided in mid-October that I just need to suck it up and motivate myself to get writing. NaNoWriMo seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that.
I even had the perfect project for this year. Shortly after my wife and I were married, I got the idea into my head to start writing a fantasy novel for her. I’d write the book a chapter at a time and give her each chapter to read as I completed it. Great idea in theory — except I’ve never made it past the first two chapters. The second attempt to pick up the project involved fairly extensive re-writes, which annoyed my wife greatly. I didn’t have the heart to pick it up again after that, and so the story has languished in my mind for several years since. Liz reminds me of it periodically, and I always feel guilty about not completing it, which…
My goal for NaNoWriMo 2013 is to finally complete this novel, despite the job, despite the farm, despite the family, despite the classes I’m currently enrolled in. There’s never going to be a perfect opportunity to start writing — I’ve known and understood this for years — so I just need to make the time to do what I love if I ever hope to be successful at it.
I’ve opted to use the Reverse Nano Reward System, since it front-loads NaNo with the bulk of the writing, starting with 3,346 words on Day 1 followed by steadily declining numbers every day thereafter until you only have to write one word on the last day of the month. To give some perspective, the normal word count per day, evenly divided, is 1,667 words a day. So Reverse NaNo is particularly appealing to me on two fronts. The first is because I tend to poop out on projects easily. I approach them with all the gusto and enthusiasm necessary to carry me through — and then lose focus and energy partway through and never get the project completed. The second is because of the Thanksgiving holiday near the end of the month. I’d prefer to sacrifice a little more time up front in order to have more time with family near the end.
Today was the first day, and I prepared by making sure I had a little bit of outlining done beforehand and by making sure I had all my homework done last night so I don’t have to see it again for the next ten days. I’m both pleased and surprised by how easy it was to hit my word count for the day. Granted, I’ve had this story banging around in my head for years, so the first part of the story I’m particularly familiar with. And as you can see by the word count, I already had about 1,000 words in the manuscript — which I refused to count toward my daily quota. (The place they’ll pay off is in the final count for the month, but even then, I have a feeling I won’t count them toward my 50,000-word total.) I wrote 3,352 new words for the novel today, fleshing out and completing the first chapter of the story, and I don’t think I’m done for the day yet. Granted, it’s pretty rough, and I already know one scene is going to need a pretty severe rewrite, but everything I’ve read about doing NaNo is that quality isn’t what matters, just output. The draft can be revised later. At this point, I’m looking at this project as the framework for something bigger and better, because I can already think of twenty different things from today’s output alone that can be made better. This is my first foray into long fiction, and it’s a bit of a different beast than short fiction.
See? Once I get on a tear and get that momentum rolling, it’s a lot easier for me to keep it going. It’s just the getting started that’s hard.