Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Joy of NaNoWriMo: Or Crystal Meth for Writers

The Joy of NaNoWriMo: Or Crystal Meth for Writers
By Cat Connor
Guest Blogger

For the last three years, I have taken part in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The first year wasn’t a success for me, but it set me up. I had a taste. I knew what was possible and I liked it.

The second year, I discovered I was already signed up to do NaNoWriMo. No conscious choice needed. I knew I wasn’t prepared to have a string of failures under my belt. I had to do it. (And I was already using familiar terms to explain what I was doing. “I’m doing Nano, you?”)

The joy of pounding the keyboard got me over the dreadful frustrating slowness of the NaNoWriMo site. I ignored everyone and everything around me. I told my kids I was busy and wouldn’t be available for anything all month. And unless there was copious blood and or unconsciousness involved the little ones (and grown ones) were to leave me alone. I got so organized I surprised myself. I utilized the crock-pot to the fullest. I did everything required of me, quickly and efficiently, and it was on with the writing.

I did it. I wrote my first kiwi novel. A fun spy/thriller type novel that totally kicks ass. And one day when I get time, I will polish the hell out of it and send it out into the big wide world.

Last year – reeling from a string of rejections and disgruntled with the whole publishing industry I did Nano again. Same deal – I was already signed up (and I will not have a failure next to my name!) this time however I wanted to write the fourth book in a series. (Turns out it’s the 5th book, but never mind)

I did it and then some. I passed the 50,000-required words; I think the word count was around 80,000. The novel is tremendous (And sitting here waiting for polishing.) The difference in word count came from using established characters that I knew very well indeed. I still had no clue about plot. This didn’t matter, because frankly I never do when I start a story. It just happens. It was much easier writing with familiar characters.

It’s all looking rather straightforward. Hell all you have to do is 50,000 words in 30 days. Easily achievable. (Yet I failed the first time but we don’t have to dwell on that.) It works out to fewer than 2,000 words a day. Then, I discovered that people actually planned for Nano! The whole thought of planning felt like cheating (and I struggled with being able to use established characters, because that felt like cheating too). Yet it’s apparently not. I didn’t plan for my first two attempts. I just sat down and wrote, no freaking clue about the characters that would show up, plot, none of it. I winged it from beginning to end. And it was fun but it wasn’t as easy as the third year.

This year, I thought I’d flag NaNoWriMo itself and do a 50k challenge at Backspace (a writers site I belong to) instead, that way I can write the 50k I want to write to finish a novel I’m working on. Then, I went over to the Nano site and found myself already signed up. (This is getting to be a habit)

I have to do it. I just have to.

Time could be an issue. In all seriousness, this November may drive my family to the edge without adding Nanowrimo to the mix, and I suspect that all it will take is the whisper of Nano to make them throw themselves from the cliff.

Things have changed dramatically since November 2008 when I was an aspiring novelist collecting rejections. This year I have a publisher. My first novel is out and my second due for release on Nov 10th. (This means interviews, guest blogs, a release party, and all the other fun stuff that goes with a new release.) Then there is the little fact, that I’ll be away and be starting Nanowrimo two days late. Our youngest is now at afternoon kindergarten and that means 10 hours a week disappear into the great abyss. Plus, pre-Christmas craziness. Birthdays. School commitments.

Doing NaNoWriMo for the first time is probably not insane, let’s face it – you don’t really know what it’s like until you’ve tried it. But there really is no excuse for the torturing of families beyond that once. That being said, I don’t know anyone who has only done it once. That’s the hook, you do it once just to see - but it’s insidious, it gets in, before you know it, thirty days are gone in a haze of word counts and challenges.

It’s like a drug.

It’s crystal meth for writers. (But even cheaper and easier to obtain.)

I’m sitting here dreading every second yet knowing I have to do it. The sad thing is I’ll love it while I’m doing it – while in the clutches of the frenzied writing watching that word count go steadily higher. Resenting every interruption, neglecting everyone except my characters. Living on adrenaline and coffee. Unable to sleep unless I’ve written at least 2,000 words a day, but not being happy until I achieve more.

It’s a drug.

I’m an addict. Hello, my name is Cat Connor and Nano is my drug of choice.

I fully expect to find NaNoWriMo on the DEA drug information list in the next few years, the effects are far reaching and it’s most definitely open for abuse. It’s worldwide and they’re already pushing it to kids.

Roll on November; I can’t wait to start my fourth Nano experience! I may be away from the keyboard for the first few days…but I’ll be writing longhand so I don’t get behind in word count.

So anyone else doing Nano?

You know you want to.

Cat Connor is a crime thriller writer. Catch her blog at:

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1 comment:

Karen from Mentor said...

Ok Cat, I did it. I'm in. I'm going Nutso...I mean Nano...


you silver tongued devil you...It's the accent...gets me every time.