Every author knows that it’s National Novel Writing Month – thirty days dedicated to flexing our writing muscles and whipping out 50,000 words of an original manuscript. The idea is to give ourselves permission to pursue our writing passion with all our hearts, minds, and laptops in a frenzy of creative expression and production.
What a great idea!
What unfettered freedom to write!
What planet are these people from?
Like most authors I know, writing a novel gets sandwiched in between a part or full-time job, parenting, spousing, volunteering obligations, pet maintenance, cooking and cleaning, and – oh yes! – occasional opportunities to sleep. So, at least for me, while NaNoWriMo sounds like a fabulous idea, that is, unfortunately, all it will ever be for me – an idea, not a reality. During the month of November, while other lucky authors suspend every claim on their time and energy to immerse themselves in writing bliss, I’m still teaching college sophomores how to construct a grammatically correct sentence, walking the dog at least twice a day, cooking dinner for my husband and me, doing laundry, answering emails, and maintaining personal hygiene. Until I can figure out how to do all that AND write at the same time, NaNoWriMo will continue to be an elusive dream, and I will go on wondering what it would be like to write a novel in thirty consecutive days.
Note that I wrote ‘consecutive’ days.
That’s because I do write a novel every year in thirty days. The days are just not back-to-back, or consistently eight hours of effort, but all in all, it ends up being around the same amount of ‘work.’ In other words, I write when I can. Some days, that ‘writing’ may actually be hours of mental plotting while I’m otherwise physically engaged (can you spell ‘spring cleanup’?) or it could be an uninterrupted ten-hour words-pouring-out-of-me marathon when I forget to eat (easiest to do when hubby and kids are out of town). I have, at least twice, written the first chapter in a methodical manner, sitting down to my laptop for four hours a day. But then it’s been weeks, or even months, before I get back for Chapter Two. As I often excuse myself to those who ask, I was trained as a journalist, and I work best under pressure, but as an example of writerly discipline, I stink.
It works for me, though. I find that downtime between chapters, or even mid-chapter, gives me time to play with my story, working out different arcs or conflicts. My writing breaks allow my characters to form more completely in my mind, often without my interference. And sometimes, my story takes turns I never would have predicted, thanks to the people or events I encounter while I’m in the middle of slowly, erratically, crafting a story.
Write a novel in a month?
If you can do it, go for it.
Me? I’m simmering stew, along with story plots. The really good stuff takes time, you know.
How’s your NaNoWriMo going?