Kelsey Sandy
This year, I attempted the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those of you that don’t know, National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. That breaks down to 1,667 words per day. The concept here is quantity, not quality. Editing is for other months.

I had never attempted NaNo before, hadn’t even really known what it was. I didn’t plan on joining this year either. But I’ve been more active in the blog and Twitter community, and I couldn’t avoid the approaching Nov. 1st deadline. Plus, some of my writer friends were pushing me to try it (what are writer friends for if not to push us to write?). So, I caved. I created a NaNo account and Nov. 1st, I started writing.

This summer I finished a novel I’ve been working on for over 2 years and began the querying process to varying degrees of success. Since then, I’ve been jotting down vague new novel ideas, but none had really stuck. Honestly, I hadn’t been writing. I went back to tinker with some old short stories. I spent a lot of time on twitter. But I had the No-Novel Blues.

The idea of having a 200-page draft (even a terrible, terrible draft complete with poorly written scenes, major plot holes, and underdeveloped characters) in one month was thrilling!

So, I opened a blank Word document on November 1st and wrote 1,667 words. In fact, I wrote 1,667 words per day faithfully for 19 days. Then, I quit.

Now, if you know me, I don’t like to quit. I don’t like failure. And I don’t like not doing something I said I would, especially if it has to do with a writing goal.

I quit NaNo because it wasn’t fun anymore, and it was making me feel like a bad writer. Plain and simple.

Today, there are a lot of NaNoWriMo winners. Writers who plan for months. Who have a strong concept, a good feeling for their characters, even a clear outline. I had none of these things. And maybe November would have turned out differently for me if I had.

Here’s a confession: I hate the beginnings and the ends of things. I hate starting a new semester (I teach college writing classes), and I hate ending one. I hate picking up a new book to read, and I hate turning the last page. I hate starting a new TV series, while the finale makes my stomach turn.

I love to be in the midst of something great. I love being surrounded by characters I love, that I have history with, and knowing we’ll be together for a long, long time still.

Maybe this is why I prefer television series to movies. Why I love books that you can return to again and again. Why I love novel writing over short story writing.

NaNoWriMo is all about the first draft, about starting with a blank page and moving forward to the end. I hate that part. My NaNoWriMo word document is not a crappy draft (which was what I was hoping for). It dissolved somewhere around Nov. 5th into a diary, lamenting how much I hate writing first drafts, how many ideas I don’t have, all the many ways that I suck.

In short, I realized that I have to stay true to my own writing process. So, I quit. And, happily, I enjoyed all the Thanksgiving food!
So the question is: Do I regret attempting NaNoWriMo? It did, after all, turn me into a loser.

Not at all. In fact, I learned something very important. I have the time to write every day. For 19 days, I wrote 1,667 words EVERY DAY. That took about 2 hours. And, guess what? I still went to work. I still ate lunch and dinner. I still graded papers. The house was still clean (mostly). I still made it to the gym (mostly). I even still watched TV, checked Twitter and Facebook, and read (although maybe a little less). This wasn’t without some stress and crying and gnashing of teeth. But what art isn't?

I don’t have to write for 2 hours every day. I don’t have to force 1,667 words per day. But I can write every day. I should write every day. And, while I may never subject myself to NaNoWriMo again, I will always be grateful.

So, were you a NaNo-winner, -loser, or -nonparticipant this year?
2 Responses
  1. T. Drecker Says:

    I'm glad you shared this. NaNo is great, but not for everyone. I tried once a few years ago but found that shoving my way through a novel just doesn't work for me. Thank heavens, everyone is different :)

  2. LOL. I'm totally with you. I did NaNo one year, and that was with an outline and a first 10K of the story written (targeted to be complete at 80K). What I ended up with was total tripe. Yup. I was so discouraged afterward about that manuscript that it's still sitting, waiting for attention. I think slow and steady is much better than a forced burst of words.