For years I poo-pooed the idea of National Novel Writing Month. As many times as I hear the advice of “write a crummy first draft; revise later,” I know that a sentence or a scene can haunt me through the night and demand to be rewritten the next morning. The first time I took on the NaNo challenge, I completely sabotaged myself, writing fewer words in a month than I usually do in a week. The next year I signed up again, falling just 43,292 words short of the 50k NaNo goal.
Despite my pathetic word counts, I’ve turned into one of the biggest NaNoWriMo fans because of what I observed last year. The library where I work hosted several NaNo write-ins in 2013, marking off a portion of the library for “novelists at work.” Twenty to thirty writers came each week, writing with focus and determination – and speed. Short chats with other writers were about process and progress; no time wasted on talking about agents or editors or query letters or anything about the business end of writing. These people were writing to enjoy the process; writing toward a goal. After November ended, I asked a few Wrimos what their plans were for revision and submission. Some talked about keeping the file closed for a few months, and then hitting the rewrite. A couple considered the project finished. But not “finished” as in ready to be published; finished as in: I did what I wanted to do for this creative exercise.
I came away from last November greatly admiring these writers, the ones who are totally committed to a challenge and the process. THAT was the kind of writer I used to be (albeit with tens of thousands of words less each month) – a writer who challenges herself every day. THAT’S the kind of writer I want to be again.
So, yeah, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year. And I can’t wait.
There is no shortage of blog posts out there offering tips to make it through NaNoWriMo. I’m resisting the urge to read absolutely everything and sticking with some solid resources on the NaNo site itself, including 6 tips to finish your first draft. Take a look at more NaNo prep resources on their blog. And consider this bit of advice from a four-time Wrimo pro: Make sure advance prep includes cleaning hour house and clearing your calendar.