Confessions of a Nanowrimo fiend

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
My experiences with Nanowrimo

Submitted: December 01, 2008

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Submitted: December 01, 2008

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My first NanoWrimo experience took place in 2006. The concept, if you're not familiar with it, is to write a novel in the month of November. Starting at 12:00:01 midnight, Nov 1, you write and write until you fingers fall off and then you write with your toes. I've tried twice before and failed. The highest count that I got was 27000 words or so. It's a mad dash towards finish line, and to get there you need to write approximately 1600 words per day. That's easy to do if you live in a cave somewhere, but most of us have one gig or another going on the side. So squeezing an hour or two out of the day can be challenging. This means that you will need to write 1600 words every two-three hours.

The event is out of this world. I have read many books on writing and learned several techniques, but nothing teaches you like banging your fingers on the keyboard day and day out, the clock ticking, for 30 days straight until midnight on November 30. Nothing prepares you for it. You can draft plots and outlines for a long time, but once you hit the ground you simply have to run. All your notes, all your ideas, and all your structures blow up as the characters take a life of their own and go this way and that. You just gotta go along for the ride, because baby this is a seat-of-the-pants event that will leave you panting and saying...never again.

That's correct, I swore that I wouldn't do it again. It is time consumming, maddening, and well simply insane. Delicious torture. And yet, on the 10th anniversary of the event, I decided to throw all reason and logic out the window and go for it.

Halloween night, I carved my very first pumpkin, ever (As my bios says, I was born in a jungle). Went out for a bit dressed as a Vampire Hunter and then came home just before midnight. Turned on my Macbook, put some music on, a glass of red wine, candles, sitting back as the clock ticks, 11:55...57...58...59..12:00:00----> 12:00:01- Go!

My fingers danced madly across the keyboard and typed the first sentence...he was dreaming of the sea...oh oh, I didn't really like the way that sounded. I wasn't sure. I knew from experience, however, that this was not the time for Edits. Every bone in my body screamed...Edit the MuthaFucka'. But I fought off the urge and plowed on. And man, what a blast. Liberated from all constraints of previous research and preconceptions and notions that will take you knowhere, I jazzed it up and the words poured out. Halting at first. I was still editing the work. The clock ticked. It was only the first day, but each time I paused I heard the tick tick tick of the approaching deadline. No more editing. I cranked up the words, but by the middle of the month, I began to fall behind. The moderator sent out a challenge for the 15, which I managed to meet. My first little victory. Then other challenges were sent out but I was falling behind. First 300 words. Then 800. Then 6 thousands. Yikes!

The doubts beging. You don't know what you're doing. The plot sucks. This is the worst that you've ever written. It can't be done. But then you receive a pep talk from Piers Anthony or some other hot shot writer, who tells you come on, get up, you can do it. We know what you're feeling, keep going! And you do, forgetting even about the word count. Whether you're on the train, or on the bus, or wherever, you write and write and write. Nonstop. Somebody get me out of this crazy train, but your fingers fly across the keyboard, and you see the grammatical mistakes and all the spleling errors. Phew! How many spelling errors did I see? You don't even have time to fix them. Man oh man.

You grab a rhythm. That is to say, it is something that you can groove with. A character, a scenario, a bit of flirtatious dialogue. Yea that's right. She does this and then he does this and she...she what? Oh my fucking god. What am I talking about? This is not writing. This is typing. That's right! It's typing dammit, so don't stop and keep going. There you go again.

After not writing for three days straight, I was in the shits. 28000 words behind. That's right. I decided to clear out my schedule on Saturday November 29 to write all day and finish it that night. Yes, I knew that I had one more day, but I also knew that if I didn't do it then, I wouldn't be able to do it.

The mad rush, the keyboard, the caffeine, the wine, the effects, the tea, the words dance before you in chaotic meaning as characters come and go, get in trouble, plot an escape, get a place together, ride on a spaceship, speak with dolls, agree to build a whore house for the dolls, go back home, the plot is lost, so you switch to your other hero who for some reason has enrolled himself in this academy and is now being chased by an oversexed intellectual. It's all nonsense, I tell you. And why are the space colonies breaking down? And why do the women have wings?

It's breathless motion. I took a half hour nap and then wrote until midnight. I was done for the day. Couldn't go on. I realized, I wasn't going to make it. I had 3000 words left to write.

On Sunday, I dropped all my plans again and got up at 5 am (okay maybe it was like 8), and began again. Boom boom. I didn't stop until 1 pm, when I finally said, fuck it. I couldn't go on. Reality was calling me back. So, I compiled my Scrivener chapters and exported them to a Word doc. Hit the word count.

53,000 words.

I had done it, baby! Once I included the words I wrote long hand, the final count was 53,826. I had been counting the words manually, chapter by chapter, and I made mistakes along the way. So the count seemed lower than it actually was. But here was the beautiful truth! I had written a novel in a single month.

This is one the most intense and fun writing experiences that I've ever had. How awesome it is to see the Winner logo on your personal page and the following message:

Through storm and sun, you traversed the noveling seas. Pitted against a merciless deadline and fighting hordes of distractions, you persevered. You launched yourself bravely into Week One, sailed through the churning waters of Week Two, skirted the mutinous shoals of Weeks Three and Four, and now have landed, victorious, in a place that few adventurers ever see.

We congratulate you on your hard work, salute your discipline and follow-through, and celebrate your imagination.

You did something amazing this month, novelist. We couldn’t be prouder.

We wish you well on your future adventures, and hope to see you for Script Frenzy in April, and have you back again with us for NaNoWriMo next November.

This year over 119, 000 writers showed up. 21,683 completed the novel, that's an 18.2% win rate, according to the Nanowrimo site. Wow. Just Wow. As an aspiring or a seasoned writer, you owe it to yourself to participate in Nanowrimo. I learned many lessons out of this experience and the one that I think is the most important is...don't stop writing.

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