Why I Jumped the NaNoWriMo Ship

November 13, 2010

Robert Whistler, June, 1972, Sandoval, Illinois, US

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. In November, thousands of folks step up to write a novel. A “novel” for these purposes is defined as 50,000 words of non-fiction, written over the course of 30 days.

November 2009 was my first NaNoWriMo. I hunkered down with my laptop, and wrote my 50,000 words. I cranked out my first draft of my first novel–and it’s pretty decent if I do say so myself. (Truth is, I am the only one who could say so, since no one else has read it [yet].) I “won” NaNoWriMo, and was very happy I had.

There were several reasons I participated in NaNoWriMo last year. For one, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I wanted that accomplishment–especially at a time when so much of the rest of my life was unraveling.

I also had an idea for a series of books, and a clear notion of what was going to happen in the first one.

And I was curious what it would be like. How would this be, the process of writing a novel?

I very much enjoyed NaNoWriMo 2009. I cranked out my words, I learned it was quite possible, and I had some wonderful moments when my novel actually wrote itself–those were amazing. And when I was all through I thought, “I want to do this every year.”

In 2010, NaNoWriMo has been completely different for me. After hitting my word count goal for five straight days and writing 8,628 words of a novel titled, “Damage at the Phloem” I realized a some important things about me as a writer, and that NaNoWriMo isn’t the thing for me to be doing (at least not right now).

About NaNoWriMo 2010 I learned:

  • I’ve already proven that I can do it, so that motivator is used up
  • My story was slightly interesting, but really of no particular merit
  • I was terribly distracted by other things I am trying to take care of right now (before the snow flies)

And about myself as a writer I learned:

  • I prefer writing non-fiction
  • I prefer writing shorter pieces
  • I revel in words and language, and their flow, cadence, poetry, accuracy, etc. brings me joy
  • Cramming out the words to squeeze out a story brings me less joy than crafting with words; I am not excited about my writing when it is not well-honed.

The most important thing I learned is that NaNoWriMo really is about showing us who we are as writers.

Last year I learned about writing a novel, about doing something you say you’re going to do. I learned that I can focus, buckle down, and produce a lot of words.

This year, I learned about me as a writer.

Now that I have more understanding about both those things, it’s more likely that someday you’ll see my name on a cover in your local bookstore. I figure that’s an appropriate NaNoWriMo accomplishment for this year.

Photo: Robert Whistler from the collection of Wally Hartshorn and used with Creative Commons license.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sophia November 15, 2010 at 7:32 am

What a valuable experience! Congratulations on discovering that stopping something that is not right for you is good.

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