I’m going to do NaNoWriMo/WNFIN again this year. Actually, stop. Since words matter, I need to phase this better. I’ll phrase my intention thusly: I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo/WNFIN this year and during the month of November, I will write a 50,000 word book.
It’s November again and writers of all types are gearing up for National Novel Writing Month and Write Nonfiction in November, where you’ll either flow out or grind out (or perhaps something in the middle of those) a 50,000 word novel. Just 1666 words a day, every day, for 30 days.
I wrote my only novel this way. I didn’t finish it in 30 days; I got to perhaps 35,000 – 40,000 words, but the important thing is I completed it at some point. It wasn’t that good, not that anybody’s first draft is. But at least I got it out. And I even rewrote a couple of drafts and had a really good editor friend go through it and give me the straight truth on what it needed to become really good and publishable (even though, these days, with some of the ebook titles that are pointed out to me on a weekly basis, I wonder what connotation that word even has anymore). This was all before I stopped writing poetry and prose pretty much entirely to focus on drama.
I need to choose what I’m going to write and get outlining. We’re two weeks out. I’m pretty much a committed pantser, so this time I’m going to outline. I think my commitment to pantsing and the supposed freedom to be as creative as I like, is also a commitment to the freedom of not finishing. It’s easy to say that the muse didn’t hit me on any given day and that I can make up that day’s writing the next. I’ve used that line of thinking before and the results have been dismal. At least with outlining, I’ll know where I’m planning to go that day and even if I end up going slightly off track, I’ve at least gone somewhere, which is more in the spirit of NaNoWriMo than not going anywhere and instead, just watching Monday Night Football without making any traction in the writing.
I’m not going to write another novel. Not this time. I’m going to write either a memoir or a collection of essays. I just haven’t decided yet. I already have a memoir in progress and I wonder how much material I have to get to book-length. I might just do what I saw on a book cover recently — I think it was a memoir whose subtitle said it was novella-length. Why not? Even if I decide to write another memoir for November and run out of things to say by the time I get to only 35,000 or so words, at least I might be able to work on it and get it to the point where it’s publishable (that word again) and get it out there.
I like the idea of writing a collection of essays more as I can just spout off, meander, think things over, and then get to somewhere new, without having to hold true to a larger narrative. But again, with this freedom sometimes comes the freedom not to finish. Especially when the range of possible topics becomes overwhelming.
When I wrote the novel I ended up finishing, I published the individual pieces on my then website as I wrote them. I’m torn as to whether I’m going to do that or not this time. I do need content for this site. And I do have one or two people who are viewing this site and asking me what I’m writing and why I’m not updating the site and motivating and/or possibly shaming me, so publishing the pieces as I write them, in whatever first draft form they’re in, might be a good idea.
At the very least, I’ll probably talk about the process here.
I once wrote a play during a different 30 day month. The next time they have one of these months for drama, I’m in.
Even if I don’t end up with a publishable work —and I don’t even know how many published titles there are out there that have ever come out of NaNoWriMo participation or even if “real” writers participate or whatever— at the very least, I want to come out of this with a better writing habit (or practice) and the confidence to put more work out there.
As of this date, I have 58 1/2 composition notebooks filled with daily thoughts, small to large musings, morning pages, poem fragments, scene fragments, you name it. And that’s just my regular journals. I have a handful of other journals filled with writing exercises and other miscellany. Lots of words, all kept more or less sealed and hidden.
It’s time to begin sharing something daily, as the artist/writer Austin Kleon says or shipping, as Seth Godin says. Whether I share whatever I write daily or end up with a finished larger work (even one that needs massive work by the end of November), what I ultimately need the most are the practice of doing it (and completing it) and the confidence to put at least some part of it “out there.” Writing is very easy to give up on, or finish, then throw it in a drawer (or an encrypted file on your computer) and never think of it again. Or even worse, to put it in there and think about it all the time and yet, never actually do the work of putting it out in the world because of fear, feelings of inadequacy, etc.
That’s why I’m doing this. I need to get back to my desk and grind or flow, whatever I’m going to do. Because if you’re not sharing or shipping, who are you? I have a day job and I work with some smart and talented people doing good work, but I’m more than just the guy who helps keep the computers running. But if only I know it and that truth isn’t fully expressed so that somebody else can know it, how true can it really be?