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Saturday, December 10, 2016

50,000 Words in 30 Days -- Surviving the NaNoWriMo Marathon

It was quite a thing, writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I signed up telling all my colleagues I wouldn't cross the finish line, that I had no intention of it. I wanted to write good words, not fast and plenty words. But guess what? I have a giant competitive streak in my nature. Every day when I checked my writing buddies' progress, a few pulled ahead, of me. It got under my skin. I started writing faster, upping my daily word count. I suddenly felt I COULD finish this marathon, and wouldn't that be a thing?

I began with a head start: a detailed outline and character profiles drawn from working with Lisa Cron's Story Genius book on the craft of fiction. I knew the WHY for my characters, not just the WHAT. I knew what the two sisters each needed to achieve by the book's end and what that was supposed to make the reader feel.

Armed with all that, plus a pre-existing 10,000+ words, I leaped in on November 1. My life, it should be said, was in no way ready for such a venture, and that's why I had to do it. My beloved brother had just died less than a month earlier. I had new family responsibilities as a result. I had a play I'd written in rehearsal, and a novel I'd completed to get an agent or publisher for. I was behind on my client work, swamped with chores and errands left unattended when we plunged into caring for my dying brother, and I was in deep mourning.

And #NaNoWriMo2016 was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time. The daily exercise of writing sharpened my mind and my skills. It focused me in a world - La Spezia in Liguria, Italy -- beyond anywhere familiar, except that I have once been there on the happiest vacation I've ever taken. And it gave me a reachable goal. I'm very goal-oriented, so that was a happy space for, reaching for a new goal.

As it turned out, I got my 50,000 words done by the skin of my teeth, and by dumping raw research into the body of the book, rewriting it, and then deciding to organize chapters later. And now I have two-thirds of THE ROMANTICS CLUB, a novel, roughly drafted. Some of the opening chapters have been polished to a high gloss. I did some editing while I wrote -- can't refrain from wordsmithing, as it's my poetic pleasure to do it -- and I did some organizing and LOTS OF RESEARCH.

In short, I recommend this for all you goal-oriented writers who are wondering how to tackle the next book. You don't have to wait for November. Name your own novel-writing month and try to hit a 1,667-word-a-day pace. Or if you did NaNo, you can use January and February to do some goal-oriented editing, with resources from NaNoWriMo.
National Novel Writing Monthhttp://nanowrimo.org

Whatever you do, know you can do more writing than you think you can. That's the message of NaNoWriMo. Go to the website and donate to support this wonderful program that empowers lots of writers -- young and old!