Why I Said “No” To NaNoWriMo This Year
This time last November you would have found me chained to my laptop, sucking down bars of semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate, with about two hundred post-it notes stuck to my desk, my hair, my kids, the dog, and any available space within a five-foot radius. Not only did I sign-up to “win” NaNoWriMo–which really consists of receiving a video with a bunch of people in viking hats cheering–but I was determined to finish before Thanksgiving so it didn’t impact my holiday. On top of that, I decided to write for a new age group, Middle Grade, and in a new genre, Sci-Fi.
In short, I’d chosen to voluntarily screw myself over the course of 26 days.
My problem as a writer, heck, as a person, is that I firmly believe that I can do anything if I want it bad enough and work hard enough. I’ve gotten to do some really amazing things as a result of this work ethic. I’ve also ended up doing a ton of things I wished I didn’t sign up for. NaNo ended up being somewhere in-between.
Here’s how my NaNo experience went.
Days 1-5: Awesome. I didn’t write every day, but I loved the topic, so when I did write, I hit 3k without blinking.
Days 6-10: This next round wasn’t as easy. Still, I had an outline and a plan. Did it matter that I kept forgetting to eat? No. Who needs food when there’s an awesome story brewing?
Days 11-20: Okay, it was official. I hated writing Middle Grade. Why did I pick Middle Grade when I loved writing YA? It should’ve been a YA book. I contemplated rewriting the beginning to morph it into a YA….More baker’s chocolate…
Days 20-25: I had absolutely no idea where the plot was going. I hated writing MG, though I did enjoy Sci-Fi. How would I end this thing? Oh, geez, I overdosed on the chocolate. Head rush.
Day 26: Did I even know the characters? Sort of…Oh good, I was finally done. What???!! The word count in Word was different than it was on the NaNo site? I had to write 500 more words? 100? 25? When would this hell be over? OMG! It was over. Sleep time.
The Aftermath: Yeah, so that was my shining NaNo experience. At this point you’ve probably guessed that it lost some of its sparkle after day five. Was I as prepared as I could have been? Maybe? Could I have chosen to write a YA and had a better experience? Probably.
But after it was all over, even the excitement of the Nordic-themed video and the impressive NaNo Winner badge on my website wasn’t enough. For me, NaNo took away the very best part of writing. The writing. Then it sent me straight into my least favorite part. Editing. Don’t get me wrong–I spend a tremendous amount of time editing my work before anyone even sees it. I believe in editing, and in being thorough. That doesn’t mean I dance when it’s time to edit.
I do, however, dance when I’m writing because I’m at my best when I’m creating new worlds. That part of the process drives me. NaNo ensured I only got 26 days of writing bliss. After it was all over I couldn’t help feeling like I’d been cheated. I then spent a year completely rewriting the manuscript into a YA and editing the heck out of it. Mostly, because I didn’t have time to get to know my characters in 26 days. I thought I knew them and then I started writing and guess what? I didn’t. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
NanoWriMo is a great tool–especially for writers who are having trouble getting and staying motivated to finish a first draft. The camaraderie and support system other writers offer is top-notch. I’m just not sure it was for me. If it wasn’t for you, that’s okay, too.
In the end, my final NaNo version looks nothing like that first NaNo draft. That’s okay, because I love it in a way I didn’t last November. Although I didn’t do NaNo this time, I embraced the challenge last year and did it. Maybe NaNo isn’t for me, but you know what? I’m good with that.