For non-writers reading this column, that fancy little conglomeration of words stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly writing workshop – from the confines of your home office, quiet corner of the world, or nearest Starbucks, coffee shop or watering hole – where writers from around the globe vow to write a 50,000-word novel during November. Writers divvy up the projected word count by 30 days and aim for 1,666 words or more on a page per day.
Um, those last three digits scare me, just a little.
I get it though. NaNo is a big event. In 2012, more than 341,000 participants completed manuscripts. Over 82,000 students and teachers put pen to paper and over 600 libraries shared facilities for writers searching for space to scribble their dreams.
In Nebraska, several regional groups encourage participants, pushing each to write his/her version of the great American novel. Several colleagues who are part of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild have prodded – I mean, encouraged – writers to get busy, stay on task, and finish the book. That type of support is important.
Before I dive into the mechanics of writing a novel, I’ll preface with this: I have written three books. They reside on an external hard drive in my home office, waiting for a proper home and audience. The first, a Young Adult novel based on an incident from one of my kid’s lives, took six months to write nearly 10 years ago, while I sat in the waiting room during my husband’s doctor visits after he suffered a stroke. Next, a non-fiction book about writing that originated as blog posts, is being formatted as an e-book. My latest fiction attempt is a contemporary romance novel, which is in a rough, rough state and needs major revision. Eventually, I hope for all three to be published.
Overall, the concept of NaNoWriMo is good because you set a goal and go for it. The artistic community supports one another, and it creates a good sense of camaraderie.
But for me, it doesn’t work for one simple reason: time. Four years ago, I signed up, thinking how easy it would be write a book in 30 days. During the first week, I was on track for success, even penning more words than necessary some days.
Then, life set in. I coach one-act and it consumes the month of November. Between early morning and late evening practice sessions, writing time seemed limited. Plus, work and family obligations exhaust a chunk of time. At some point, I needed sleep. Suddenly, December arrived and the word count tallied around 15,000 words. Then, guilt set in. Sigh.
Yet, after the hoopla of NaNoWriMo faded, the basics of that script turned into book #3 mentioned above.
Here’s what I learned: I don’t need a specific month to develop a story. What’s important is writing, daily, and experimenting with words and styles to create a story worth telling and reading.