First things first: whenever I read “NaNoWriMo” I actually hear “Nanu Nanu” in my head and see a random scene from Mork and Mindy.
However, NaNoWriMo is not an Orkian salute, it’s the catchy acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which, if you’re wondering, is November. For the 13th year, thousands and thousands of people are frantically throwing words onto page or screen, trying to finish a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month.
I’m one of them.
I didn’t really mean to be, but this past August, as my teaching contract neared its end and I was thinking of what to with all the free time I was about to have, I came across a mention of NaNoWriMo and went to the website to find out more. Two things really intrigued me. The first was the whole idea behind NaNo, which is that most writers struggle to get words down on paper because they want those words to be perfect on the very first draft, which is never going to happen. That’s what I’ve been telling students for years–just get your ideas down to start with, fix it up later. (Professor Crawford: “The older I get, the more convinced I am that there’s no such thing as a good writer–there are just lots of excellent revisers.) NaNo combats that by keeping the focus on the number of words, so that you’re so busy getting words down you don’t have time for your inner critic/editor.
The second thing I really liked is the NaNo catchphrase of “quantity over quality.” Now that is right in my wheelhouse, to use a baseball analogy. Anyone who’s worked with me or been in one of my classes knows I can write lots of words, sometimes even way more words than are absolutely necessary. Being required to focus on the number of words instead of the quality of the words definitely works for me! I signed up right then and there.
However, sometime in October I remembered that I was going out-of-town for the last two weeks of November and realistically wouldn’t be able to write much then. 50,000 words in 30 days sounded possible–a stretch goal, but possible. 50,000 words in 16 days? That
sounded like setting myself up to fail, and while I don’t think of myself as a competitive perfectionist, I didn’t like the idea of losing at NaNo. A little sad, and maybe just a teeny bit relieved, I decided not to join in this year.
When NaNo started on November 1, I got the welcoming email since I’d signed up back in August. I returned to the site, read through the various pep talks and fun stuff, and found them all so witty and inspirational that I started thinking, “Maybe I should go ahead
and do this.” But rational, practical Cindy reminded me that I couldn’t possibly write 50,000 words this month, so I closed down the site and moved on with my life.
On November 3, somewhere around 10pm, I was sitting innocently in my living room, reading, when out of nowhere I thought, “What the hell. I’m doing it,” and started writing
that very night. Rational practical Cindy sighed in her “what on earth are you doing” way, but I ignored her.
By the end of week one, I had written a little over 8000 words. I’d also written the most boring novel in the history of novels. But I comforted myself with words of wisdom from the website (“you’ll write a lot of crap”) and kept writing. Besides, according to NaNo founder Chris Baty, every time a writer deletes a NaNo sentence an angel loses his wings and plummets to the ground. Yikes! I didn’t delete a single boring word.
But I did need to spice things up a bit, so I threw in a dead body. Then I threw in another one. And that’s where Week 1 ended.
Anyone else doing NaNo?