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Another Year, Another NaNoWriMo: But, Should You?

Hi, writer.

I’m going to play a little mind-reading trick with you.

Would you like to play along?

Okay, good.

First, I want you to think about all of the long hours you put into writing. The long, hard slog that it takes to pull a novel together. The edits and rewrites and more edits and rewrites.

Now, writer, answer the following question:

“Do you love to write?” Like, really love it?

What? Did you just say no?

But, wait! You do love to write! I can prove it.

What happens when you finish a novel?

I’m reading your mind now… because I think you start brainstorming about your next writing project.

Did I get it right? So, I’ll ask again. Do you love to write?

Yeah, I bet you do, even if some days it’s a slog.

A wise writer once told me that if wasn’t the process of writing that I actually loved, I’d never start a second book once I finished a first. Heck, I probably wouldn’t have finished the first.

Fred and I are working on our next novels right now when we’re not Loud Coffee Press-ing, which can only mean one of two things… either we really do like writing, or it’s almost NaNoWriMo time.

My history with NaNoWriMo is a tumultuous one. I first joined years ago, and quit about three days in. I failed again in year two, and probably a third year in. I didn’t hate writing, but I know one thing to be true about myself: I am a slow writer. I am a feeler, a planner, and someone who writes in my head throughout the day, in car rides, in showers, while I’m supposed to be participating in work meetings… and I watch my story take form in Tetris-shaped pieces until the form becomes a whole. Thus, I struggle with the demands of NaNo, which I feel is for people who can do two things well: think fast and write fast.

A few years ago, I completed my first NaNo. Fred and I challenged ourselves to completing it, and we joined up with several of our friends within the writing community to stay on task. I wrote a full-length novel. In hindsight, it was crap, and that was okay. It was practice in form, and proof that I could put my self-editor brain aside and feel my way through something faster than I thought I could. It was a fantastic exercise in working outside of my writer comfort zone.

This year, I’ll attempt it again, despite my better judgment, but I won’t hold myself too closely to winning 50k words in one month. Many people can write 50k better than I can in 30 days, and I know myself to be a better writer when I’m slower. But, I have a personal advantage this year—I started early. I already took the Tetris route, did the feeling process, and now know all the major plot points of my story. My outline is done, and I’m several thousand words into the new novel. Most importantly, I know how it ends. In fact, I don’t think any story can proceed forward without, at the very least, an ending. An ending is the great driver for everything that happens. Perhaps I’ve found my NaNo sweet spot. Perhaps.

I asked Fred about Nano. Here’s what he said:

“I’m writing a fantasy retelling of Moby Dick. I’m doing more research for this book because I want the setting to be more realistic. It’s more heavily researched than any of the other books I’ve written. I have difficulty writing a novel out of sequence. I like to write the story as it happens. Almost like I’m watching it unfold, like a movie.

As for the story, I feel good about it, although I didn’t feel good about it last week. It’s an up-and-down process.

I really like NaNoWriMo. I think it’s great to get the first draft of a novel out or use the momentum to finish the first draft of a novel in progress. I don’t think I could write something really complex in that short of a time period, though. Some ideas require more time to really think through.”

Basically, he agrees with me, which is smart, in my opinion.

I’m writing a horror story, tentatively titled House of Patterns, a modern ode to Shirley Jackson and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, with a psychological twist. It's slightly indulgent and a blast to write. Compared to The Boy Who Brought the Sea, my novel that’s currently undergoing edits, House of Patterns is straightforward and not super complex… yet, but it's equally as interesting in its own right.

I’ll attempt NaNo once again, but as much as I still struggle with butt-in-chair syndrome, I also love writing. Once a great idea takes hold, I don’t mind letting it take as long as it needs. A novel in 30 days? Eh. Maybe it’s nice to be finished, but maybe it’s also nice to take the slow path.

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