I flirted with but ultimately rejected the idea of doing the National Novel-Writing Month challenge again. NaNoWriMo (as it’s very geekily called) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during November. That’s about 1,670 words a day, or about 5 to 7 pages, depending on how you write.
I completed the challenge, writing 50,000 or more words, in November 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each of those years, I followed professional writing disciplines, such as outlining the plot and completing character studies. In 2014, I volunteered as my region’s coordinator for the program, so I gave pep talks, set up “write-ins” at area libraries, fielded questions, held hands, and organized parties for the kick-off and the completion celebration.
I ended up with three very rough first drafts of novels, since 50,000 words is really more novella length – not enough for the complexity of my stories. I tried writing mainstream fiction, each based on a “big” concept or theme, such as sovereignty over one’s body, or technology’s tendency to disenfranchise people who don’t get it. Yeah, pretty heady concepts, and pretty pretentious, looking back on it.
I gave myself a break last year because of work pressures, and told myself I would instead work on revising the most promising of the three novels. Rereading the manuscripts, I was by turns delighted and horrified by what I’d written. I couldn’t really make headway on the best of the lot, so I set the whole thing aside for another day.
The work pressure is off this year, but I find myself unenthusiastic about trying again:
- I don’t need a fourth unfinished half-assed novel in my life. I am afraid of failure and always driven to achieve things. Getting the “yay” moment at 50,000 words is nice, but it’s not enough for me anymore.
- I’d rather spend my time doing other things, such as sewing, taking care of my health, and building my career.
- The effort is not that great for me, since I can write very quickly and my long commute affords plenty of time. But the project took me away from my husband a lot in November; he resented it, and I felt guilty.
- I never connected well with anyone in my community like I thought I would. I was hoping to make friends, or at least a colleague I could bounce things off of, but that didn’t happen. This sounds awful, but the people I met were all weird and I didn’t want to spend time with them. They probably regarded me as some entitled snob, which is true enough.
- The NaNo crowd skews heavily toward genre fiction. I’m not putting genre fiction down, it’s just hard to relate to someone who’s writing what they hope is the next Twilight or Star Trek series while you’re exploring more down-to-earth themes.
- My new job is more challenging than my old job, where I had lots of time to screw around. Many a time when I was supposed to be working at my old job, I’d be writing my novels instead. A couple times in 2015 I wrote during my lunch break on my personal laptop, but it was a weird thing to do in my office environment and it made me uncomfortable.
- Part of me feels I need to get over this silly dream and just focus on my career anyway. I’m 47, for chrissakes.
I sometimes miss writing (but hey, I have this blog for that). I toyed with “pantsing” it, that is, writing a novel by the seat of my pants – no outline, no characters, no theme. But my control-freak mind would be most unhappy. I also toyed with the idea of doing something goofy, like fan fiction, just to do it – try something different, get out of the ol’ comfort zone.
Part of me feels sorry that I am passing this by. I really do want to write and to publish one good book in my lifetime. That may not happen for a variety of reasons, but if I don’t do the work in the first place, that will always be reason #1. Corny motivational sayings such as “winners are losers who gave it one more try” and “it’s never too late” are all true. Also, there is never a perfect time, let alone a good time, to do the work. You do it because you need to. You make the time for it. You sacrifice and scrimp and sow resentment if you have to.
There’s nothing magical about National Novel-writing Month. It’s just a month, just a goal, just a structured community to participate. I can do it any time. So why don’t I?