Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Confessions of a NaNo Newbie

by R.C. Lewis

Okay, I admit it. I've never done NaNoWriMo before, and I never thought I would. I have reasons, though.

November 2009: I joined my first online writers' community on November 1st. I'm sure I heard about it at some point that month, but I was still getting my bearings and trying to figure out what to do with my one finished manuscript.

November 2010: When the month came around, I was on the homestretch of the third novel in my little trilogy, and my goal was to finish the draft before Thanksgiving. (I met that goal with days to spare—go, me!) I also started drafting snippets of my next project near the beginning of the month. I figured I was busy and motivated enough without official NaNo-ness.

October 2011: I registered an account on the NaNo website. Why now?

Confession #1: So far, I'm finding it's pretty much the same as my usual writing pace. I'm even ahead of the curve right now. (I know! It's only the second week—still plenty of time for me to crash.) So it's not the "fire under the butt" aspect that made me join up this year.

Confession #2: When I saw the ready-made stats and graph provided on the website, I had to say, "Be still, my math-geeking heart!" But if I wanted to, I could set the same thing up in Excel. In fact, I probably will. So it's not that.

Confession #3: It's not even the much-reputed camaraderie. I'm reasonably social in small-to-medium groups, whether in real life or online. I only get into something involving a really large group for specific reasons. My existing writerly support systems (ahem—AgentQuery Connect) are comfortable and sufficient. When I'm really rolling on a writing project, I just want to roll.

All right, already—so why did I give into peer pressure and join NaNo this year?

License to experiment.

This annual "special occasion" for writerdom let me give myself permission to take one month off from my usual fare and try something different—in my case, YA Contemporary rather than something in the speculative fiction realm. Is it something I would ever want to query and/or publish? Maybe not. (Of course, you never know.) But I'm stretching myself in a different direction, playing with new elements, which is a lot of fun.

Maybe during another year's NaNo, I'll try writing a non-YA novel. Maybe a mystery. Maybe I'll dive into a more complicated narrative structure. Maybe something that hasn't occurred to me as any kind of possibility yet.

What drew you to NaNoWriMo? If you're not into NaNo, what kinds of out-of-the-box experimentation do you hope to have the guts to try someday?


Matt Sinclair said...

Yes, I love that "permission," too. It's a big part of what attracted me to NaNo, and I'm loving the storyline I'm working on right now. I may be way behind pace, but I expected that. But I have instilled new habits that should enable me to complete the manuscript by early 2012 and set out to revise it and get it into shape for queries in the fall of 2012. That's the plan, at least.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great point on using NaNo to say, "Hey, I think I'll try this!" Most people do it for the kick in the pants, but I think hauling out that questionable idea and saying, "Why not? It's NaNo!" is a wonderful escape.

Tonja said...

I dig the graph too.

I was drawn in by the idea of camaraderie, but I haven't found it there. The regional group closest to me has a median age of 18. The forums read like a teenager's facebook page.

LD Masterson said...

I wanted to do NaNo for most of the reasons you mentioned. Everything about it appeals to me. Except the month. Why do they have it during the holiday season?

So I opted out. But I wish all you Nano-ers luck.

Christopher Hudson said...

It took me a while to figure out that Nano wasn't a quote from Mork ... but now that I know what it is, I'm a little horrified ... write a novel in a month? A month of Sundays ... maybe.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love NaNo - but I don't know what it is exactly that calls to me. The graph does help though! :)

Ae Grace (Abigail) said...

I had something I wanted to start, but I was still working on a novel. For a month, I want to give myself that chance to work on said idea.

However, what I found hard is switching from my novel I'm working on to this idea because the POV is so different. Instead of one, I have three. Instead of first person, present tense, I have third person past tense.

Thankfully, I worked on the outline. I have what I want and the story idea down. I just need to write it. I want to get 22k done by this Sunday, too. It's just finding the motivation to do it because I'm so tired. :p

Richard said...

I hope you guys all finish your project. I wouldn't attempt it, myself. I could never find the time to do it.

R.C. Lewis said...

Matt, I'm really loving mine, too. Particularly since the premise touches close to home.

Mindy, why would I need NaNo to give me a kick in the pants when I have you to do it any month of the year? ;)

Tonja, I hear you. I tried looking into the regional groups that fit where I am, but just wasn't feeling it. It's a great thing to have available, though.

R.C. Lewis said...

Christopher, I believe that was "Nanoo-nanoo." (Or Nanu? Nannu? Hmm...)

Jemi, graphs make everything better.

Abigail, that POV/tense shift can definitely be tricky. I'm usually okay sticking to the POV, but sometimes the wrong tense slips into a paragraph. Good luck reaching your goal!

Richard, thanks! :)

Jane Steen said...

What drew me last year was the permission to try an entirely new sort of writing, i.e. genre fiction. I loved the camaraderie, the graphs, the whole thing.

I spent the rest of the year editing the novel, which is now on submission. So this year's goal was to get the next book in the series in first draft, to make selling the series easier. I didn't feel the sense of fun as much this year, but that's OK because I achieved my aims. I'm now going to settle down to a 1K/day minimum output, and having done 3K/day for 22 days (yes, I write short in first draft) that now seems like a summer vacation sort of schedule.

I think in future I'll use NaNo as a time to play and challenge myself in some direction. Or, if I need to get another book written, as a boot camp month--it all depends on where I'm at next November.

R.C. Lewis said...

Thanks for the comment, Jane. I think the "fun" of NaNo can be relative, and achieving your goals makes it worthwhile either way.

I passed 50k on my NaNo project yesterday, and plan to keep working until I finish the first draft (probably 20k more or so). I'm glad I did it, because it's been an interesting departure from my usual work.