11.1.11 - NaNoWriMo



My brother had this shirt when I was little, and it used to crack me up. Not only because of the cheery smiling stick figure below the words, so incongruous with my logical, quiet, determined brother, but because I got the joke. I was ten, I got the joke, and that made me cool in my mind. Plus, since I was a precocious little know-it-all, I could take the opportunity to explain to my not as verbally gifted local yokel friends what it meant.

Yeah, I was kind of an ass when I was little. No one likes a know it all.

I thought of the shirt the other day. I had turned off all distractions and was doing a Thursday Mo-Mo – write as much as you can in a nine hour period. Everything started to click. Not just click, it began to roar.

And I was reminding myself, in sheer vernacular, of the following:

I are a professional writer.

I’ve discovered an interesting pattern in my writing life.

I finish two books in a relatively short period of time, between six and eight months, then my mind shuts off. Sitting down to the computer each day is a struggle. Focusing on story a near impossibility. This state of mind exists for about three months, during which I only get 25K-30K done on a book that should be finished after three months, then suddenly, just as I'm about to bottom out, feeling like a fraud, a joke, a poseur, something magical happens. It is usually precluded by a massive meltdown in which I mope around for a few days, start smoking again, and decide I will never, ever have a career, much less write another decent book.

Then my husband and one or more of my fabulous friends takes me in hand, allow me to wallow, then remind me that regardless of good or bad writing days, I would never, ever, trade this job for another, and suddenly, everything clicks, and I can start writing again. The cigs are thrown away, I stop moping, I look forward to getting up in the morning because I have a STORY prancing through my mind.

Sometimes you need to be reminded from whence you came.

I tell you this story because today we enter November, which means National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo. It is a 30-day, 50,000 word sprint that aims to help you develop the habit of sitting down at the computer every day and mindfully writing a novel.

Just FYI – a NOVEL is usually 75,000 plus, (mine are usually 90-100K) while a NOVELLA is 20-45,000 words. Just so you don’t think you’ve written a novel at 50K.

To meet the NaNoWriMo goals of 50K in 30 days, you must write an average of 1666 words a day. To some, that seems an insurmountable number, which is why the whole goal of NaNo is for you to write without censure, turning off your inner editor, not worrying about plot or structure or voice or character, just writing. Getting words down on the page. Free as the wind.

Just so you know….1666 - That’s pretty standard output for a professional writer. With the exception of the times we’re pouting and moping, of course, we do that every day, and then some, five to seven days a week, 365 days a year. With deadlines looming, books releasing, and the necessary issue of worrying about plot and structure and voice and character, satisfying contractual obligations… etc… etc….

I love NaNo. I think it’s a great exercise. The first 60K of 14, the second Taylor Jackson book, was a NaNo winner in 2006. I use November every year as a fun challenge to myself to see how much I can write in a month. It’s always the start of the cycle - two books in quick succession.

As you sit down to your computers today, remind yourself of this one thing. Should you succeed, should you finish the 50K, and go on to write another 30-50K on this story, then edit and edit and revise and revise then submit to agents, get an agent, who sells the book, you will be asked to do it again.

When you work hard to fulfill your dreams, they have a tendency to become reality. And reality for a professional writer isn’t just a month of intensity. It isn’t just 1600 words a day. It is months of intensity. Thousands of words a day, sometimes. It is deadlines and jubilation and triumph and setbacks and heartbreak and bad breaks and sheer unadulterated bliss coupled with some luck – always luck. But none of that happens with seriously hard work.

So if you want to do this for real, stick that in the back of your mind as you fly through the month of November. Do that, and you too can say I are a professional writer.

And best of luck to you all!

(My friend Tracy Lucas put together a listing of all the word counters, and inside her post is stashed a most glorious tool - the yearly word counter. Check it out. I will be using it from here on out.)