No, no, not the tummyache that you have from all the Halloween candy you’ve been eating! I’m talking about that impending sense of excitement and delight known as NaNoWriMo, thirty days of profligate literary abandon. WriMos (those who choose to follow the rules, that is) tear their way through 50,000 words by the end of the month, scribbling with fast and furious intensity. That’s roughly 1667 words each day, for those who like to think about goals in more manageable “chunks” — a bit daunting, but certainly not impossible.
I have to admit, I haven’t always been this enthusiastic about NaNo. My friends starting doing it in college, taking November to churn out cheesy Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fan fiction. Back then, I was a much less disciplined writer. I jotted down things when the muse struck, writing in long — but infrequent — chunks of time. I was also pretty skeptical of the idea that anyone could write a novel in a single month. However, since then, I’ve discovered useful things like “editing” and “drafting” (not part of my repertoire in my youth). Am I going to be able to write a perfect and complete novel in 30 days? Well, no, not unless it springs from my head armored and fully-formed. But I can write the draft of a novel that I’ll continue to develop and refine in the weeks and months to come, and that’s no small feat.
I won’t lie — I’m a teeny bit nervous about NaNo. November’s always felt like the month where things go wrong, when the dog doo hits the fan and life becomes more or less intolerable. This is probably because I’ve spent most of my life as a student, and November is the Month of Doom: mid-terms, projects, papers, prepping for final exams. November’s also when I get crazy attacks of allergies and/or the flu, brought on by lack of sleep and stress — not the best time to try my hand at writing a novel.
But for the first time ever, I have been plotting. I have a Scrivener file filled with notes and index cards and summaries of scenes and all sorts of wild stuff. I have a folder bulging with location descriptions and profiles, and lots of research to refer to when I get stuck. I have a story that’s unfolding before my very eyes, and the pure magic of it all is enough to leave me itching for the chance to write. I’ve been bouncing around like a 5 year old on a sugar rush, and all I want to squeal is, “Can I start writing now? Is it November 1st yet? Can’t I just, y’know, write the scene that won’t leave me alone??”
As Em and I have been saying for the past few weeks, NaNoWriMo should be about fun, not fear. This is about the delight of meeting new characters and learning their stories, and the utter joy of discovering new worlds. I don’t know if I’ll make 50k by the end of the month. With papers to grade, books to read for school, and a draft of my MA thesis to write, I’ll be pretty darn shocked if I can pull it off. Even if I don’t “win” (and as trite as it sounds, I think all WriMos are winners, whether or not they reach 50k), I’ll have a whole body of research under my belt, a kickass outline, and pages with words on them. I’ll have the beginning of something special, and the satisfaction of knowing that I took a chance and aimed for the impossible. As Les Brown said,
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Those are pretty decent odds, if you ask me.