Last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. I didn’t write an entire novel in those thirty short days, but I did I add 50,000 words to a novel that was already underway, and that made me a winner.
I loved having that goal and that deadline. Dorothy Parker famously said that “writing is the art of applying ass to seat,” and Nanowrimo certainly motivated me to stay in my chair.
Participating in NaNoWriMo gave me permission to write and write and write and to keep on writing: the essential task necessary to advance the novel I was working on.
- I loved Nanowrimo on the days I could chalk up another 2,000 words.
- I hated Nanowrimo on the days I had no words to add to my tally.
- I loved Nanowrio for helping me buckle down and spill the goods.
- I hated Nanwrimo for promoting quantity over quantity.
- And I loved that by the end of last November, I added 50,000 words to my draft.
So, as the emails from the Office of Letters and Light (the originators of what has become an international November phenomenon) start to skitter across my screen announcing the countdown to November, I’m not sure if I’ll sign up again.
For one, I’m still working on the same novel I was writing a year ago – now in its third draft. I’m making great progress (thanks to drafts one and two). In fact, I’ve (re)written 50,000 words in the past six weeks. At this point – since I know my characters better and have a much clearer idea of what kind of trouble they’re in, my rate of composition is accelerating exponentially (as are the number of hours I can spend at my desk).
I’m sure I could sign up for Nanowrimo and “win” again, but I’m not sure I want to. The program offers lots of support – which I barely used. The Office of Light and Letters sent me emails to cheer me on, and they offered me a virtual network to other writers all over the world. But I already get a lot of email, which distracts me from my story, and when I’m finished writing for the day, I want to get off the computer and socialize with people who I can hug. And I don’t want a virtual drink, thank you very much, but a real slug of single malt.
There are good reasons for me to participate in Nanowrimo this year. I’m still aiming to finish this draft before the end of the year, and a little pressure wouldn’t be amiss. But there are also good reasons for me to skip it: I’m already in the groove, and I like to get off the computer after a day of digging in the word mine. So I’m on the fence. Do I sign up or not? What are you going to do?
Deborah Lee Luskin is novelist, essayist and educator. She is a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio and the author of the award winning novel, Into The Wilderness. She teaches writing workshops and offers editorial consultation. For more information, visit her website at www.deborahleeluskin.com