I’ve said in the past that NaNoWriMo wouldn’t work for me and at the time it was true. I’m going sum up those reasons and why I think I can now argue against them, or at least live with them, in order to try NaNo this year.
1. 50000 words in a month are you mad?
Maybe it is completing Get Your Words Out (GYWO) last year, or from making a commitment to setting up my professional blogs as distinct from my personal/fandom journals, but the idea of 1666 words per day no longer looks as frightening or unattainable to me.
Yes, I know I’m over 32k behind on my GYWO, that’s part of the reason I’m doing NaNo. Hush.
I know I can go days without writing and then suddenly pour out 5k without a thought. That’s mostly thanks to tracking my wordcount for GYWO. It lets you see how productive you have been. As a result I have more faith in my abilities.
2. But what if I fail?
There’s an article from the Guardian called “What If I Fail?” that points out “Successful people are failures because they have dozens of failed projects behind them. We tend only to see the successes” and concludes “What if I fail? It doesn’t matter. Who cares? Keep failing…What did Samuel Beckett say? “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Fail again. Fail better.”
It’s something I’ve been thinking about. I have a habit of both not taking risks, and taking any failure to heart. Each year I sign up for Yuletide with excitement but also trepidation because I hate to let people down, and I worry that for some reason I won’t complete a fic or they’ll hate the fic or….
Catastrophizing, I’m good at it.
I’m not going to lie I still worry about letting people down and I still get disheartened when things aren’t working. But I’m less afraid of failure now. It’s not all my fault if I’m doing my best work and promoting it and there still isn’t a large audience. It’s okay if I miss a self-imposed deadline. There is no penalty if I do not “win” NaNo.
In fact I don’t have any real expectation of winning. I’d like to, but my emphasis is on the attempt, on writing as much of a new novel as I can, on enjoying the community and experience.
3. You expect me to do nothing but write one thing?!
I can, as they say, procrastinate for England. I also find myself needing variety in what I am working on. This leads to many, many, unfinished projects.
I’m hoping NaNo will help keep me focussed enough to get a good chunk of the novel written. Less procrastinating, less getting distracted. In the past I’ve worried that I’d get bored by not being “allowed” to do write anything but one novel. However it seems many people don’t just write for NaNo. They still take time out to write some fanfic, make some icons, or put together a fanmix – you can totally claim making a writing mix or a character soundtrack as part of the process in my opinion!
So I’m feeling less “penned in” about NaNo – it’s not NaNo, only NaNo, and nothing but NaNo, or else.
4. Which brings me to: Planning? I don’t do that. Much.
I hate the idea of planning out every scene. I never have a full outline and I never write anything longer than a ficlet in a linear fashion. I tend to come up with scenes – a beginning, a couple of scenes in the middle, then the end. Then more random scenes.
Of course the difficulty comes when I have to stitch all these things together into a coherent narrative. The first draft of my novel currently at the beta stage was more work than it needed to be because I had zero outline, zero timeline, and I ended up drawing up an outline after the fact in order to be able to edit it.
So I’ve come to appreciate the notion of some planning. Nothing that will strangle my creativity or stop my characters driving the plot in an unexpected direction, just some sort of framework. I’m actually trying to use the Major Arcana as a starting point, because some of the symbolism is directly relevant to the plot and the Fool’s Journey is almost the same as the Hero’s Journey.
Also there’s the issue with original fic regarding characters. One of the eternal joys of fanfic is that the characters come ready made, and in particular, they come with names.
Even if you hate the names, they’re there. They are “right”, as it were. For me, names have to be “right”, and I spend hours trying to find the perfect one for a character. This is time you cannot waste during NaNo, so I’m having to do preparation in advance. I have two of the four major characters named so far.
Again, I hate the idea of “having to” know every single thing about a character from their birthdate to the colour of their underwear. I will discover things about them as I write and get to know them. But knowing a few things about them – name, rough description, some basic characteristics – is important.
For other minor characters and things like place names I will probably use placeholders as they become necessary. PLACENAME1 isn’t “wrong”, and I can take time to find the right name later.
So while the idea of the Snowflake Method is horrifying, I’m no longer against about taking some time to pin down some of the basics before starting the work and coming up with a brief statement about what the novel is about and the themes I think it will include.
5. November – that’s not even a real month
I’ll quote here from the excellent piece by Chuck Wendig, “25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo”:
11. November Is A Shitty Month
November. The month of Thanksgiving. The month where people start shopping for Christmas. The month where we celebrate National Pomegranate Month (NaPoGraMo?). Yeah. Not a great month to pick to get stuff done. Just be aware that November presents its own unique challenges to novelists of any stripe, much less those doing a combat landing during NaNoWriMo. Know this going in.
I feel much the same way. After Samhain/Halloween there’s nothing to look forward to until Yule. I regularly have conversations with family members that go something like this:
Me: I’m so behind on my GWYO/Yuletide fic/Christmas gift making and it’s almost the end of year!
Them: That’s weeks away. You’ve got all of November yet!
So yes, November is awful, dark and depressing, back to GMT rather than British Summertime, weeks of darkness before the Winter Solstice promises the sun will come back, honestly it will.
But perhaps having a project like NaNo will make November feel useful for once. It’s worth a go.