The first day of November celebrated by many as All Hallow’s (or All Saint’s) Day, and as Day of the Dead for many others. Neither of which made any impact on my secular protestant-based upbringing, even if I was raised in Los Angeles, a hotbed of Latino and Catholic culture.
November 1st didn’t become important to me until 2003. That was the first year I participated in Nanowrimo. I’ve participated on and off since, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I skipped the year we moved back to San Diego from the East coast, not because I wanted to but because I was so overwhelmed with the logistics of a trying to fit a family of four (with one kid just starting kindergarten and another a senior in high school) into a tiny two bedroom apartment, along with all the belongings, mostly still in boxes, from our previous, much larger home. I just plain forgot about Nano.
I also skipped 2013— the cancer year. I was doing radiation therapy in November and it was kicking my ass. It was the first and only time I skipped Nano on purpose.
Other years I started but gave up early on when things didn’t come together as I’d hoped either story-wise or life-wise. Some years, I kept at it, writing up until the final day, but not hitting the 50,000 word goal. I have a few finishes in the 20-35k zone. Several attempts got me to the winners circle, including that first year. None of the wins, by the way, were completed novels. “Win” only means I hit my 50,000 word goal. That’s about half a novel in the speculative fiction genre.
Having faced a range of experiences in regards to the event, I can say that it’s been worth it for me. It proved that I could write a novel— or at least most of one. And going back later over the old projects, proved that it wasn’t awful writing either. Last October while trying to decide what to work on for Nano 2019 I reread the manuscript I wrote in 2003 for my very first Nano. I actually really liked it. I couldn’t put it down. I kinda wanted to write more of that instead of a new project.
Alas and Alack, the novel in question was a vampire novel. It’s a shame I didn’t do something with it before Twilight turned the vampire into the persona non grata of the publishing world. Instead, it languished because I have issues. Self-doubt is only the beginning of that mess. I should finish it anyhow. Maybe someday vampires will be in again, and then I would be ready to pounce.
I haven’t had a successful attempt since 2016. Last year I managed just a tad over 20,000 words and it led to some soul searching about whether or not Nanowrimo fits my current writerly-self. The conclusion: I don’t think it does.
Deadlines used to be a big motivator for me, but these days trying to talk myself into doing something is like…
I’m also a more experienced writer. Post Nanowrimo I didn’t have any proof that I could write more than a few disconnected scenes and an encyclopedia’s worth of world building and back story. What can I say, I love research and I love figuring stuff out. I could live in the world-building part of an epic story for the rest of my life if it weren’t for the nagging little voice inside of me that keeps saying “bitch, write the fucking story already.” (Yes, my inner voice is a foul-mouthed purveyor of truth.)
Thanks to Nano, I know I can write a lot of scenes that are actually connected to each other in a story-like format. I am grateful to Nanowrimo, it’s creators and the participants in those first few years that helped encourage me to write and win, and come back for more. It gave me the experience and courage I needed to keep at this whole writing thing.
But experience has also taught me that if world-building is the best, editing is the worst. If I write fast, striving for word count rather than allowing myself the time to edit as I go, then I have to do a LOT more editing afterward. Which I am seriously not good at. I used to better, but my brain has been hamstrung by my cancer treatment. Between the brain fog that started during chemo and continued for years after while taking Tamoxifen and has never really gone away, and with the anxieties and lack of focus that increased as a result– editing makes me miserable. I can’t keep all the information straight in my head, I get lost in the endless notes I have to leave for myself. It’s too complicated and overwhelming to deal with.
And a Nano manuscript is ten times messier and confusing than something written at a more leisurely pace. They are a disaster to try an edit, and I just can’t face that anymore.
But I also hate the idea of not observing Nanowrimo in some way. I don’t have a novel in me this year. But I do have this blog and my morning pages. So this year, I’m a Nano Rebel.
I’m still going to shoot for 5ok, but much of that will be fully edited and posted on the blog during the course of the month. A lot of the 50k will actually BE editing as most of the back content I need to work on and upload is already written to some extent or another. I may not reach 50k, I may fail utterly, but I may just find the motivation to finally get another win.
And since I’m writing this on November 1st, it counts as part of my total (978 words!)
Good luck to all my fellow Nanowrimos out there! Write on!