This Above All, To Thine Own Self Be True
So, it’s November 25, which means three big events are just a few days away—U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday; the “Black Friday” shopping orgy that kicks off the holiday shopping season in the U.S. on Friday; and the end of NaNoWriMo on Saturday.
(Pictured—my favorite NaNo 2013 writing spot)
In case anyone here either isn’t a writer or has been living in a cave, National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where writers all over the world—305,964 of them as of right now—try to write 50,000 words during the month of November.
I love the energy that surges through the writing community during NaNoWriMo. Both i person and virtual write-ins pop up all over the place, and writerly message boards are full of authors offering each other encouragement, no matter how far ahead or behind we are in reaching the 50,000 word goal. Here in San Antonio, the “InSANoWriMos” (signifying that we are both in San Antonio and a little bit insane) have a Facebook group page, a Chatzy chat room, and a Twitter feed, as well as our regional forum on the NaNoWriMo website.
“Winning” NaNoWriMo requires a daily word count of 1,667. For many authors, this isn’t even a challenge, but for me, a notoriously slow writer, it requires herculean effort. In fact, for a long time I didn’t truly believe I was capable of doing it. I attempted NaNo five times, with varying degrees of seriousness, before finally succeeding last year. No lie, my 2012 Winners tee shirt, which I had to pay for myself, is one of my prized possessions.
I attribute my 2012 win to two main factors. Not getting behind early on was important, because it kept me from getting discouraged. More importantly for this died in the wool plotter, though, I was working from a detailed, scene by scene outline. There was no lost time figuring out what the hell should happen next. And I rolled to the finish line on November 29 not only with the win, but having completed the first draft of a category-length romance novel. It wasn’t perfect—first drafts never are—but it was respectable and gave me something I could work with during revisions.
This year, things are different. I had a general concept for my NaNo novel in mind, and planned to write a detailed outline in October, once I’d left my day job. But while I was taking care of other things I’d put off while I was employed, and enjoying a more unstructured lifestyle, I kept putting off the outline. The next thing I knew, it was Halloween and I was going to have to tackle NaNo as a pantser.
The good news is, my word count is on track and I’ll win again this year. The bad news is, I’ll probably delete my entire NaNo file on December 1 and start over. Not only has the writing process been excruciatingly painful, but barely a scene I’ve written during NaNo is salvageable. I’ve been reminded of what I already knew about myself—I simply am not a writer who can fly by the seat of her pants. I need that outline as a basic roadmap, even if I can and do deviate from it when inspiration strikes. By not respecting the writing process that I know works for me, I did myself and my muse a disservice. Never again.
I believe no words are ever wasted, and forcing myself to write much more quickly than I had been was good for me. But from now on, I’ll embrace my died-in-the-wool plotter soul. For this writer, Team Outline is hot; Team Pants is not.