This Sunday I finished my NaNoWriMo story. Those familiar with NaNo know that it takes place in November and is a race to get fifty thousand words done. In a month. Those familiar with calendars will notice that this is, in fact December. I didn’t finish in a month. I didn’t get 50k either, I finished the story with just over thirty thousand words. In other words, I’m a loser. I’m not bummed about it though. In fact I’m downright cheerful for a few reasons.
It was fun: There’s something about the way this event is set up that takes the usual pressures of writing away for me. It’s paradoxical since saying it out loud- ‘I have thirty days to write a fifty thousand word novel’-sounds crazy and unachievable. It should add pressure. But the very fact that you’re unlikely to make it means you might as well just have fun trying. Enjoy the looks people give you when you tell them what you’re doing.
The story was fun: There’s nothing wrong with writing serious, meaningful, literature. It’s nice to think your work might have a deep resonance with people. Get them to think about themes and issues you yourself find important. But I have to tell you, just writing a story for the sake of telling a story is a hell of a lot of fun. I went into NaNo with no real idea what I was going to write about. In fact the first day I didn’t write at all. I was still thinking about the story. What I ended up doing was coming up with a simple ‘what if idea’–what if a zombie movie took place in the Old West? for a situation. I came up with a quick scene setting based on that situation–strangers travelling in a stage coach. Then I filled the stage with stock characters and called ‘action’. There’s nothing serious or deep in it but man it was fun.
It was surprising: The frenzied pace you set yourself makes some interesting things happen. I don’t know how many of those things are good and how many bad, that’s what the rewrite’s for, but at least they aren’t boring. Possible bad things were–lots of adverbial description, not always bad but tends to be weak–weird tone shifts, and genre shifts for that matter–lots and lots of typos. Possible good things–the pace of writing seems to make for a fast paced story–characters do stuff for you, with no time to flesh out your characters’ deep seated motives they just do stuff. It’s like actors working improv instead of rehearsed. Except for a couple of guys that were zombie bait, none of my characters ended up exactly where I thought they would. That’s pretty thrilling.
It’s doable: Even though I didn’t make it, plenty of people did. When you break it down it’s less than 2000 words a day. In fact it’s 1666.66etc. words a day. That’s a pretty stout chunk of writing if you have a job or family or whatever else keeps you from writing. But you have to get that every day and if you fall behind the word count for the next day grows and having a real and external deadline does feel different from one you set yourself. It is doable though and if you’re at all serious about writing you should be doing it every day anyway.
So, I’m a happy loser. I got a little break from other stuff I was working on. I upped my daily word count. I finished a story. It’s all good. I can’t say enough about just jumping in if you want to write. Jump in with over-the-top and unwarranted optimism. You don’t have to wait for next November either. Get together with some other writers and make the same commitment. January is popular for new ventures. JaNoWriMo! Just get at it.