I did my first NaNoWriMo last year — you can read about me planning to do it here, and the result here, if you’re a fan of very long-winded, very self-absorbed whining/gloating. TL;DR: I won, in that I spewed forth 50,000 words from my head to my laptop in eighteen days and then uploaded them to the NaNo website and they gave me a little jpeg to stick on things.
The end result is, I think, a mishmash of ideas that would need a lot of work to go anywhere, and, while very much fictionalised, based on enough True Events that I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing it into the wilderness without a few Good Long Chats with people about things that I mostly, honestly, consider bygones, but that make good stories. The writing is fine but the dialogue is uniformly fucking awful.
More important than the result, the experience taught me a lot about my writing process and my strengths and weaknesses (…dialogue…) as a writer. It was hard at first, but got easier as the days went on, and at some point I started to really enjoy it.
That said, I came out of the experience exhausted of my words for what I thought would be a few days but ended up being about eight months. My original plan of letting my terrible novel rest for a few weeks, before going back and seeing whether it was worth salvaging, fell by the wayside as the months went by. Even when so much time had passed that I’d forgotten much of what I wrote, just idea of opening the little “Novel” icon on my desktop still made we want to take a nap. I felt tired just thinking about it, about the work that I had put into it and the work that still needed to be done.
(I did eventually open it in August, and immediately started completely rewriting it. For the better, I think, but then life did that life thing and such a big project didn’t stand a chance. I considered doing the rewrite as this year’s NaNo but I have another idea or seven, so it’ll probably just sit in my drafts folder — finally moved off my desktop — until 2021 or so.)
More than just teaching me about my writing process, it also taught me a lot about myself — not all of it good. To be honest, I don’t necessarily know that NaNoWriMo is a healthy thing for me to take on. It lets me get too fixated on one meaningless, inconsequential thing at the expense of everything else around me, which I have a bad habit of doing anyway (she says, uninstalling Angry Birds for the fifth time). It also maybe makes me not a great person to be around for a month, and I’m already pretty difficult at the best of times.
And yet, here we are, signing up for Round 2.
My poor, poor family. My poor, poor garden. My poor, poor to-be-read pile. My poor, poor social life… if I had one.
I’m doing it this year because I want to know if I can be smarter about it than I was last year. Having already smashed the word count once helps — I know I can do that and I don’t have to worry about doing it again. What I want to know is if I can just write something — one thing, because at the moment my writing is such a scattergun of words about everything and anything and none of it even halfway finished, and I have such a dreadful habit of writing myself into corners and then jumping ship instead of trying to find a way out — every day, excluding maybe Saturdays, for one month. And if I can maybe go on to finish that thing, even if I don’t finish it in the month of November.
I’m also doing it again because while I don’t think it’s necessarily good for me, once I get over the hump of starting and finding a routine, I do really enjoy it. And I do think that my writing gets better for the intensive practice.
It’s just everything else that suffers.
In some ways, I think I’m better prepared this year. I’ve been writing a fair bit of fiction, unlike last year when my lead-up was mostly blogging about reality TV. And this time I have a vague outline of a story in my head. I also have a beautiful, wonderful thing called preschool taking care of my four-year-old — although I do also have a nearly-two-year-old, which I didn’t last year, and mostly those two things balance out, in terms of time and attention required.
I may keep this blog updated on my progress. I may not. Quite honestly, I think I probably waste a lot of time writing about writing when I should just be writing — like making to-do lists when I could just be doing the tos, it’s just procrastination dressed up as preparation.
Much like this whole post, really, which is why I’m going to stop writing it now and hit publish and get back to important human business, like breakfast.