Happy NaNoWriMo eve, everyone! (And Halloween. Of course.)
NaNoWriMo is a great month for challenging your creative output and getting a sometimes-much-needed kick in the pants. You’re surrounded by supportive friends and fellow WriMos and the energy is buoying. The momentum helps a lot.
I shouldn’t feel nervous about NaNoWriMo, but I kind of do. Being nervous means I have doubts, that I’m still in that mode where I’m thinking I’m going to try to win NaNo. Which means that I haven’t decided that I will yet. Which means I’m still allowing for the possibility of disappointing myself. Which is just whisker-twisting bullshit.
Just have to keep in mind what Yoda says about trying and doing. Agonizing about a decision is just a way to put off making a decision. And then you’ll be in agony, and a decision still won’t have been made.
ANYWAY. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about in advance of tomorrow.
Technically, you win NaNo by writing 50k words. Those words are supposed to be a first draft of a novel from start to finish. But I think 50k words is a little on the short side for a proper novel, and I don’t want to conflate goals. Last year, my focus became very much about meeting the word count and not so much about the complete story aspect. So at the end, my victory felt somewhat hollow because I knew the story wasn’t done. It didn’t really feel like I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.
This year, I’m not planning to write an entire novel in the month. I don’t want to conflate goals. I’m working on the fairytale project I’ve already started with the aim of adding 50k words to it.
The difference is slight but significant.
Tracking word count has nothing to do with writing a novel from start to finish. Putting together a story isn’t just about putting words down on a page (although those are necessary). And when your story doesn’t hang together, even if you have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of words, you don’t have a novel. I get that you have to have some kind of proxy metric because you can’t really measure “story completeness” in an objective way. And even if you could, you certainly can’t for as many people as participate in the month.
BUT. You know what word count is a great metric for? Word count. It, in fact, measures word count perfectly.
So that’s what I’m doing this year. And without further ado, a slightly amended novelist agreement, highlighted with some of the things I need to focus on (from No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty):
THE MONTH-LONG NOVELIST AGREEMENT AND STATEMENT OF UNDERSTANDING
I hereby pledge my intent to write
a50,000-word[s] novelin one month’s time. By invoking an absurd, month-long deadline on such an enormous undertaking, I understand that notions of “craft,” “brilliance,” and “competency” are to be chucked right out the window, where they will remain, ignored, until they are retrieved for the editing process. I understand that I am a talented person, capable of heroic acts of creativity, and I will give myself enough time over the course of the next month to allow my innate gifts to come to the surface, unmolested by self-doubt, self-criticism, and other acts of self-bullying.
During the month ahead, I realize I will produce clunky dialogue, cliched characters, and deeply flawed plots. I agree that all of these things will be left in my rough draft, to be corrected and/or excised at a later point. I understand my right to withhold my manuscript from all readers until I deem it completed. I also acknowledge my right as author to substantially inflate both the quality of the rough draft and the rigors of the writing process should such inflation prove useful in garnering me respect and attention, or freedom from participation in onerous household chores.
I acknowledge that the month-long, 50,000-word deadline I set for myself is absolute and unchangeable, and that any failure to meet the deadline, or any effort on my part to move the deadline once the adventure has begun, will invite well-deserved mockery from friends and family. I also acknowledge that, upon successful completion of the stated noveling objective, I am entitled to a period of gleeful celebration and revelry, the duration and intensity of which may preclude me from participating fully in workplace activities for days, if not weeks, afterward.
Read, signed, dated.
No one in my core group of people is doing NaNo this year, so I’ll have to find some community elsewhere. I may even pop into some local events (though my hermit tendencies are already balking at the idea). At the very least, I might go write at a coffee shop now and then for a change of scenery.
Now, in the words of the most excellent Chuck Wendig, let’s write, motherfuckers.