Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why I Now Believe In NaNo

Lookit what I won.
In 2011 I wrote a post entitled, "Why I Don't Do NaNo."

NaNoWriMo, to the uninitiated, is the National Novel Writing Month. Each November writers are encouraged to plant the butt firmly in chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel. It's been going on for several years now, and it always brings out a lot of excitement in writer circles.

In 2011 I talked about how it didn't work for me when I tried it a couple of times. It was good for some people, but didn't work for everyone, and I was one of those writers.

Fast forward to 2013.

Facebook was buzzing with my writer friends saying how they were going to disappear for the month because of NaNo. The excitement was palpable. Just because I said I wasn't going to do it, I felt a pang of missing out.

Man, they were going to have all this fun.

Then on October 30, I thought, why not? I can try it again. If I get a few thousand words out, it's more than I would have had if I weren't writing. My main project was under going another round of revisions, so it was out of consideration.

But there was this new idea I'd been composting for a while. I even got to do some brainstorming on it with Jill Williamson on our flight back from the ACFW writer's conference in September. Would the new idea hold water? NaNo seemed like an opportunity to play with it and see what could happen.

I jumped in.

For the first week, I kept up pace. A writer has to average 1667 words a day to finish the 50,000 on time. Then life started interfering and I fell off. Well, at least I had some words down.

Except I had a taste of success. Circumstances worked out. I kept plugging away.

By November 28 I had three days left and 10,000 words to go. Could I do it? Facebook friends were now cheering me on. My wife succumbed agreed to let me have time over the holiday weekend to hit the keys.

And on November 30 I clocked in at 50,077 words.

So, this is partially a self-indulgent, congratulatory post. Whoo-hoo, I did it!

But I also learned some things about writing.

I learned how to push for a deadline. My first novel was written over seven years. No sense of urgency there. Now I knew I could be dedicated and churn out some significant production if challenged.

I was able to explore a new idea. Obviously the first draft of everything is mostly crap, but it forced me to work through some plot points, and there are a few keepers in there. Of course, the chapter where I was stuck and decided to interview one of my characters for "word count" won't make the final cut. But I learned things about Demarcus that I can use later on. It's all good!

Having a minimal outline helps. I was drowning for a bit until I brainstormed a few plot points to get me out of a bunch of conversations over food. Even when one of the points was, "something bad happens now," it helped me have enough structure to push forward.

I went from doing 1000 words on my best day to 5200 words. Again, they came fast and furious, and I hope they at least make complete sentences, but I got them out. Now the revision scalpel can come out.

So to me in 2011 - you were wrong. You can do NaNo, and with the right circumstances it does help you out. But enough of the blog post - you've got revision to do. Get cracking!

Have you done NaNo? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.