Monday, December 2, 2013

Washed Up on the Far Shore of Nanowrimo

Around 1 AM November 27th, I won my fourth Nanowrimo--National Novel Writing Month. Midnight November 1st found me with a jumble of sketchy notes, a pot of tea, and a bag of emergency snacks. With Boris Karloff's eyes smoldering out of the TV screen as The Mummy on the late-night Halloween movie, and the sound on low, I began typing.

It was my hardest Nano yet. I had a title--BAD MOON, a vague idea, and a few cardboard cutout characters. That was it. For the next 26 days, my family individually and collectively created more drama than any competing telenovela, and my previously well-behaved dogs and cats started leaving surprises around the house. An annual writing conference came around and I was away from home overnight and most of two days, but Nano doesn't wait--1,667 words a day do not write themselves.

But this year, my goal had to be something closer to 2,000 words a day. Due to the only convergence--in all of human history--of Thanksgiving, the first day of Chanukah, and the 80th birthday of my husband's cousin, I had to be D-O-N-E by dawn on the 27th. We were leaving for a long family weekend celebration in New York City, and I didn't want to schlepp a heavy, old-school laptop.

Somehow, I made it. For the first time ever, I discovered that it is possible to write in my sleep. Literally. On two separate occasions, I dozed off while writing, and startled awake a few moments later, only to discover I had completed one or more actual sentences. Neither of them bore any connection to the story at that point, though, which I found interesting. Since it was Nano, and every word counts, of course I left them in anyway.

At 8 PM November 26th, I was only partially packed. In fact, I still had laundry to do before I could finish packing. I had not written all day, and I still had 4,000 words between me and victory. It looked very much as though I was going to be trying to find space in that bag for a very heavy computer.

I had never written more than two or three thousand words in a day. Many of my 1,667-word days had been excruciating. But I decided I was just going to do it. And so I sat down and wrote. My characters went nuts. They had rambling conversations and I tagged all their dialog. Every verb got its very own adverb. Florid descriptions flew from my fingertips. It was the fastest and easiest 4,000 words of my life. Bam!

And so...I hit my 50,000 words with four days to spare, even though the book isn't finished, and it certainly isn't great. But the amazing thing--which I have experienced every Nano--is that there are so many good things in there, all the same. What I have is the bones of a pretty good story, and one that I would never otherwise have written.

Now, after a long weekend in New York, I'm looking ahead to the New Year, and ten months that are not Nanowrimo. I have four Nano novels that all need work, and a few more written conventionally. What I've been lacking in the past is dedicated follow-through. So for 2014, my goal is to revise a book a month--and start getting them out there.

Writing is important, and God bless Nano--every year it reminds me of that.

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