November is National Novel Writing Month…

…and I’m too busy to come out and play.  BOO HOO!!

Okay, actually, I take back the sadness.  I refuse to be sad.  I am too busy because I have some amazing opportunities to enjoy and develop my literary mojo this month.  There is absolutely no reason to be sad.  I’m just feeling a wee bit nostalgic.  Uhhhhh, JOYFULLY nostalgic.  Yeah, that’s it.

Before I start waxing nostalgic about previous Novembers, I should probably explain the whole National Novel Writing Month thing (affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo by anyone even slightly familiar with the concept).

NaNoWriMo is not really a writing contest, it’s more of a writing challenge.  It’s all about quantity, not quality.  When people sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo, they are saying to the world, “Hey everybody!  I am going to write at least 50,000 words of a brand new fiction novel within the 30 days of November.”

And if a NaNo writer truly embraces the spirit of the event, that writer is also choosing to ignore silly little details like plot, characterization, continuity, readability and just about every other storytelling element known to mankind.  ANYTHING can be fixed during the rewriting process (also known as the other 11 months of the year).

NaNoWriMo is like Weight Watchers for writers.  It’s Write Watchers.  Back in 2003, I came up with a writing support group idea called Write Watchers that was loosely based on this quantity over quality writing concept, but I was too lazy and chicken sh*t to take any steps to make it happen…such as recruiting other members, starting a website or coming up with a clear set of rules and/or guidelines.  Luckily, one man had already done all of that work for me (and so much more).

Way back in 1999, Chris Baty organized a group of 21 people living in the San Francisco Bay Area to stop talking about writing a novel and just do it….within 30 days.  They enjoyed the process so much, they decided to create a website and do it again the following year.  By year three, NaNoWriMo had outgrown all of its founder’s expectations with 5000 participants.  In 2004, the first modern NaNoWriMo website was launched, with its glorious word count progress tracking whatsit, vast forums of time-wastery and the automated word count validation thingy.

I discovered NaNoWriMo in late September 2004 through the Writer’s Digest “Best Websites for Writers” list. I registered the very first day the website went live for that year’s event, but then was faced with waiting a whole month before I could actually start writing my fabulous new novel.

Shortly thereafter, something very exciting happened. My company sent me to the Philippines to train new employees for most of October.  On one hand, I was training people to do my job for a fraction of my salary.  On the other had, it was a free, all-expense-paid trip to the Philippines for three weeks.  Woo hoo!  On the other (third?) hand, I was on the opposite side of the planet, but still required to work the standard U.S. work week so I had to go in around 10:00 pm local time Mon – Fri and leave around dawn the next morning.  On weekends, I was afraid to get off that topsy-turvy schedule….which meant I spent quite a lot of quality time in my hotel suite (1) watching sumo wrestling matches and “classic” (read as bad 1980’s) anime, (2) drinking cans of San Miguel (approx $.49 USD) out of the minibar fridge, and (3) reading No Plot No Problem and jotting down ideas for my first NaNoWriMo endeavor.

Ahhhhhh….that first NaNoWriMo.  It was all so exhilarating and magical.  I hate to be a San Francisco Bay Area snob, but I just can’t explain how wonderful it was to participate as a SoBaNaNo (South Bay region) where we could easily drive or take a train up to San Francisco to hear Chris Baty give hilarious pep talks.  There were crazy Write In events where we all huddled around power outlets in various coffee shops or independent bookstores and typed like….well, like people with a whole bunch of words to type.  I completed 50,000 words and got my certificate, but I didn’t bring my story home to an ending (or even beyond the middle).  Still, there is NOTHING to compare to the first time you manage to produce over 50,000 words of fiction.

In 2005, I went into the challenge assured of my second victory.  Yeah.  Didn’t happen.

Typing with wild abandon during the first 5 minutes of November 2005. Sadly, I didn't write 50,000 words on my sophomore effort.

In 2006, I used NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words toward my first draft of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away.

SHAZAAM!  2006 was my greatest NaNoWriMo accomplishment.  It took another two years to shape that incomplete first draft into a novel that I would actually allow another human being to read, but, overall, 2006 was an excellent year in my personal NaNo history.

Then came 2007.  I’d just lost quite a bit of weight and discovered a new enthusiasm for jogging 3-5 miles every morning (an enthusiasm I’ve managed to un-discover here in Georgia).  An hour of daily exercise was fabulous for my heart and my figure, but ruined my NaNo efforts.

At the 2007 SoBaNaNo pre-party...after losing 40 lbs with Weight Watchers. Holy wholesomeness Batman, I was looking healthy.

When I moved to Georgia in 2008, I drifted away from the November NaNo tradition….partly because I missed my SoBaNaNo group so much and partly because I needed to focus on getting NSLA, NSFA ready for submission.  Irregular work hours made 2009 NaNoWriMo impossible.  Last year I was in love.  This year I’m still in love and about twice as busy.  Sigh.

[Shhhh….listen.  Do you hear that?  Is that the sound of a beautiful thing being snuffed out?  Or the sound of windows opening to reveal a glorious new beginning?]

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3 thoughts on “November is National Novel Writing Month…

    • Thanks Robyn. We truly enjoyed meeting you as well. This year’s DLF was a-MAZE-ing! I’m still trying to process everything so I can write a decent post about this year’s experience. Please stay in touch and let me know all of your successes. I’m going to add your blog to my writerly links.

  1. Ah, good to know that other great writers have failed at NaNo, too.

    And…I so agree that the exercise and writing marathons don’t work well together. Same thing for love and writing marathons. It’s that one-track-mind deal. We can lose weight or writer or love others better than most people, but we can only do one. thing. at. a. time.

    If I weren’t way older and fatter, you and I could be twins. 🙂

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