The National Novel Writing Month happens every November. The goal is to get creative and produce a novel of 50,000 words in just thirty days… beginning November 1st and ending November 30th. Why did they choose November? I have no idea… but there it is.
Each year, NaNoWriMo comes around and challenges us to put our words where our egos once lived and actually produce printed pages, proclaiming loudly, “I am a writer,” and have the words to back it up. This is when the dedicated writers of the world strut their stuff, and when the hobby writers look on in wonder and amazement. Those hobby writers… they’re all great people, and some of them are actually really great writers, too… but their “gumption” is a little lacking at times. NaNoWriMo aims to change that just a little bit.
We, the insanely dedicated writers, accept this crazy challenge to write 1,667 words every day for an entire month to prove to ourselves – more than anyone – that we have what it takes to get a novel written. We are not “someday” writers… as in, “someday I’ll write that book”. No, we are the “I’m going to make myself and nearly everyone else who enjoys my immediate world just a little more nuts than normal by forcing myself to have outlandish word count goals, and bribing myself with attractive incentive programs to get it done” writers.
I’ve participated in NanNoWriMo several times in the years since I discovered it… but rarely have I “won”. I just can’t seem to get that grand total of 50,000 words on the page… in the laptop… out of my brain. Here’s why: (yes, this is my feeble attempt at justifying failure – but indulge me for just a minute, it might be slightly entertaining.)
First, it’s November. I cook Thanksgiving dinner (like many of you out there) for my extended family. So, that’s one day of shopping, one day of prep, one day of eating, and one day of recuperation lost to our American hallowed holiday. That’s four days total, that - even though I will promise to myself, and my writing clan, that I will achieve the goal this year… even going so far as to lug my laptop to Turkey Day Dinner in the expectation that there will be a lull in the day when I can write… those four lost days near the end of the month are one of the biggest reasons it never gets done – it’s a simple lack of momentum.
Second: My history: For at least the past twenty-five years, creation has gifted me with the unfortunate experience of becoming completely incapacitated with a bout of recurring kidney stones – they’re calcium created… evidently, my body doesn’t process calcium as nicely as most people’s… and the downside to it all is that I’m a cheese-a-holic! And no, I’m not willing to give it up! After all, a woman has got to have some decadent pleasures in her life, even if the end result is more intense pain than childbearing, and results in a total lack of writing commitment and ability. I know, you have no sympathy, I bring it upon myself. I got it. And you’re forgiven for your complete lack of empathy for my cheese addiction.
So, during the month of November, an average of every two years or so, I am punished for being a mouse-humanoid. This usually means that at some point during the month, I’m curled up in bed, in the fetal position, writhing in horrific pain, screaming loudly for just one more Vicodin before I mutiny against mankind itself, using language that I shouldn’t even be aware of, let alone utter. Why does this happen to me in November most years as opposed to say, in April or August? Who can say for sure? I’m just lucky, I guess.
So, as you can well imagine, after a week or more of praying to whatever deity I think may be listening at the time for some relief from the excruciating torture, and the week – sometimes more - of recovery afterward - I tend to lose more momentum in my writing… not to mention the unconscious days when the Vicodin is kindly provided to me. On those days, I can’t even imagine the idea of writing, let alone putting fingers to keyboard – I tend to get very sleepy. Modern pharmaceuticals are a phenomenal treasure!
Which leads me to this confession: I cheat.
Yes, you read that correctly. Most years, when I participate in NaNoWriMo, I cheat. I don’t start out on a brand new project with sparkly new characters and a dazzling plot line for them to follow. No, most years I regurgitate the old ideas, hash them around a bit, find new friends for the old ones to play with, and send them on a new mission that – most often than not – I had no idea was living in my head all that time, and it’s usually a much better idea, too.
I tend to utilize NaNoWriMo to concentrate my attention on a woefully ignored manuscript (or two) that’s been collecting dust on my hard drive, begging for just a little touch of my Muse’s wings. I know that the “rules” say that you’re supposed to start on a new project each November, in order to “win”. But far too often, that’s the time of year when an ignored piece of writing wants my complete devotion. It’s hard to shove your tried and true imaginary friends aside when they guilt you into playing with them… claiming loudly in both your waking and sleeping hours that you must not love them as much as you said you did, otherwise you’d find that perfect quest for them to embark upon or that brilliantly enigmatic puzzle to solve. So, I tend to use NaNoWriMo to build up my word counts on those projects, so the imaginary people within them don’t feel so left out.
Yes, I cheat. But, here’s the thing… I think it’s perfectly okay. I’m still performing within the spirit of the event, if not to the letter of its intent.
I’m still writing 50,000 words in just 30 days – or at least coming close. I’m taking a really good stab at developing a writing practice of sitting down and putting words into a WIP. I’m diligently working at creating a regular writing habit that usually stays with me the rest of the year… writing every day, at the very least, if not reaching that daily word count goal of 1,667. And, most importantly, I’m sharing a camaraderie with other writing buddies… supporting them in their quest to complete the first draft of a novel in a month… supporting their regular writing practice… and making them feel less “special” because they’re not the only one taking on this mad adventure.
Writers are already aware of the fact that we’re a “special” kind of creative soul with a bit more “fluff” in our brains than most… but we deserve to be proud of that anomaly – and hanging out with other NaNoWriMo-ers helps to validate that sense of self-worth. It’s a good thing to hang out with a community of writers who understand the plight of imaginary friends, word count goals, and insane deadlines just to win a simultaneously frenzied and euphemistic prize... a finished first draft of the next “great American novel”.
This year, I’m going to have another go at it, and to help me in my quest, Grey Wolfe Publishing is sponsoring a nifty little incentive program to help writers meet their NaNoWriMo word count goals throughout November. Okay, in its more crude and perhaps more honest form, it’s called bribery. But regardless, we know it works.
Here’s the deal… you write like a crazy person, either on your own or in community. Then meet with us on each Wednesday of November at our Writing with The Pack session. If you can show us your official NaNoWriMo word count validation widget from their website, and you’ve met that week’s word count goal… we’ll give you a $5 Panera Gift Card. Imagine… free coffee, cocoa, or a pastry just for keeping your writing commitment each week. And… with there being five Wednesdays in November, that means you have the opportunity to receive $25 in Panera Gift Cards! That’s a whole, entire meal for two people, if you save them up!
But wait! There’s more! If you meet the 50,000 word count goal for the entire program… and you can show us your validation widget that you’ve amassed the full goal – we’ll give you another $25 Panera Gift Card! That’s right… that’s a grand total of $50 in Panera Gift Cards just for doing that thing that you enjoy doing so much anyway! And it costs you absolutely nothing… except for the little bit of time it takes each day to contrive 1,667 words into a story of some sort, and hang out with us at the Troy Public Library once a week.. It doesn’t even have to be perfect – or good – or DONE! You just have to write. What could possibly be easier?!
So, Meet Up with us at the Troy Public Library each Wednesday in November from 7pm – 9pm (we’re actually there every Wednesday of the year, not just in November). You’ll find us in the Adult Study room, at the tables along the eastern wall of windows that face the parking lot. I’ll be sure to have a stylish little sign on my table so you can easily identify our band of merry-makers.
Come write with other like-minded souls and their Muses in an environment that is filled with inspiration from the multitude of authors who have come before you… and us. And if you want to cheat… like I do… we won’t tell. The whole point is just to write… and with a little bit of Panera Café bribery as incentive – what have you got to lose?!
*** By the way, this blog post is 1,695 words, and I wrote it in just under an hour. See, this is completely do-able!
Diana Kathryn Plopa
I love being in love; writing; reading; mammals of nearly every kind, and especially micro-humans! Come enjoy my world with me - Secret Decoder Ring not required!!